A Community on Pointe
The Christmas season is just around the corner, and children far and wide are dreaming of a little girl named Clara, a charming prince, and their visit to an enchanted land of sweets. For a number of local ballerinas, they are not only dreaming about it, but thanks to the Texarkana Community Ballet, they are working hard to put together the 2022 performance of The Nutcracker.
Fifty-five years ago, dance instructors Judith McCarty, Dixie Splawn, and Sandra Robinson founded the Texarkana Community Ballet (TCB) out of their strong desire to bring classical ballet to the community. The TCB states that the organization’s purpose is to “promote and foster dance in the Texarkana area by presenting programs of professional quality, thereby giving qualified dancers the opportunity to participate in such programs.” Since its founding, the mission has continued, and the membership has grown. Today the TCB includes the following schools: Judith McCarty School of Dancing, Gayle Burrow’s All Stars Dance Center, Lana LaVoice Grounds School of Dance, Tammie Duncan School of Dance, Patti Smith’s Dancing Unlimited, Joni’s Gymnastics and Dance Centre, Texarkana Dance Academy, and Red Door Dance Academy.
The first ballet produced by TCB was Peter and the Wolf in 1967. The following year, local dance students performed The Nutcracker. Since then, the TCB has presented this Christmas Classic 29 times, making 2022 the 30th time the organization will perform this Texarkana tradition. However, it is far from overdone as The Nutcracker continues to be an area favorite, the TCB Board President, Patti Smith Thomas, explains. “We’ve put together several other ballets, but any time we do that, people start asking, ‘Where is The Nutcracker? Are you going to do The Nutcracker this year?’ We have learned that it is part of their Christmas Season traditions for many families,” Miss Patti said. “If that is what the community wants to see, then that is what we want to give them. So for the last twelve years (thirteen counting this year), that is exactly what we have put together for them.” In the years that the TCB did not perform The Nutcracker, they produced other classical ballets, including Coppelia, Babes in Toyland, and Cinderella, just to name a few.
Regardless of the ballet being performed, the TCB studios work together to create a unique experience for the dancers and community alike every performance season. “When we get together, we are united as the Texarkana Community Ballet. It is not my ballet, or Miss Kathy’s ballet, or Miss Tammie’s ballet, or any of the other teachers’,’’ Miss Patti explained. “We are all together, and we push individual studios aside. Everything and every one is created equal. I have 24 angels this year, and every one of them is like my student. I do not show any difference to any kid. When they walk in the door, they are mine. They are all angels.” She also commented on how unique this is to our area; in most communities, the studios are usually focused on competition and rarely on camaraderie. However, by uniting into one company, the students and studios work together for a common goal. “It is good for the kids. It is a professionalism that they are learning and would not have the opportunity to learn by only performing with their own studio,” Patti continued. “You would not have learned to mix with other dancers and teachers in your own studio group. Dancers have the opportunity to take from a different teacher, to see how someone else does it, and to make friends.”
Another aspect of the TCB is bringing in an auditioner to cast all the parts. Students are divided by age and years of dance experience. They can range in age from 8 to 19 years old, but they must have at least two years of formal ballet training and be a current ballet dancer at one of the TCB member studios, participating in at least one ballet class per week. The board decided years ago that using an auditioner was the best way to assure dancers were cast without bias or dispute among the TCB. The teachers love that they can bring the auditioning experience to their students. “You are preparing the students for future endeavors. Your teacher would not typically hold an audition for recital parts, so the student participates in an audition process. They can take that knowledge with them if they pursue dance at an advanced level,” Miss Patti said. “Whether their future includes auditioning for the New York City ballet or a college dance team, they have been exposed to the process to be better prepared.” The TCB members also feel that the poise gained through the pressure of performing in an audition setting can help students feel more confident and comfortable in any high-pressure situation, ranging from pageants to job interviews.
The fact that the TCB works together as a unified company is truly unique. By seeing the bigger picture, students can benefit from the constructive criticism of a new teacher and a fresh set of eyes, as well as how the auditioning process prepares them for so much more than ballet. As a result of active membership throughout the area, this year’s production of The Nutcracker will boast over 200 talented local dancers. It is easy to see that the Texarkana Community Ballet is truly reaching its goal of fostering and promoting classical ballet.
Performances at the Historic Perot Theatre
Friday, December 2 at 7 pm
Saturday, December 3 at 2 pm & 7 pm
Sunday, December 4 at 2 pm
Main Cast List
Sugar Plum Fairy—Norah Jordan
Mouse King—Trey Fullerton
President Family—Vicki and Richard Hornok