By Mandy Stanage Shoptaw | Photography by Lori Sparkman Photography
The Hot Springs Children’s Dance Theatre Company has taken off like a dancer’s soubresaut, jumping quickly and forward under the leadership of Edmond Cooper, the company’s Artistic Director & President. Next month, dancers will take the stage performing the beloved storybook ballet The Sleeping Beauty.
“Growing up in Hot Springs, I developed an interest in classical ballet very early on. Fortunately I had the opportunity to study with some very fine artists and instructors in the Central Arkansas community,” Edmond shares. “I was introduced to the Ballet Arkansas family and have enjoyed many years affiliated as a student and a performer. As a result, I had the opportunity to experience a fulfilling professional career with ballet companies around the United States including Milwaukee Ballet, Southwest Ballet, and Ballet Arizona.”
Bringing it full circle, Edmond utilizes his connections in the dance world to provide his students with unique training and performance opportunities. Each year, the company seamlessly blends nationally recognized talent with the skills of the company’s students for productions that continue to delight the community. “The Sleeping Beauty is, for many of us, a cherished childhood bedtime story. Its origins are unknown, as it was verbally passed down through the millennia and not published until the 17th Century. Tchaikovsky wrote the music, and his long-time collaborator, Marius Petipa, choreographed the dances,” Edmond explains that it was performed for the first time in St. Petersburg Russia in 1890, and is heralded for its challenging choreography. “It is as demanding as it is beautiful. In fact, the Rose Adagio that Princess performs in Act 1 is considered one of the most difficult adagios of any ballet.”
Hot Springs Children’s Dance Theatre students will be joined for this performance by professionals including Dagny Hanarahan of New York in the role of Aurora and Cyrus Bridwell of Vermont performing as Prince Florimund. Additional guest artists include Katchiri Moody, Zeek Wright, and Deanna Stanton.
Those familiar with The Sleeping Beauty will no doubt recall the evil fairy, Carabosse (Maleficent in the Disney versions), who casts a spell over the infant Aurora. “Carabosse is traditionally cast as a male performer,” explains Edmond. “The gender swapping creates an intense dramatic effect and underpins the theatricality of the piece.” Guest performer Zeek Wright brings his skills and athleticism to the part as well as the coveted and technically demanding role of The Blue Bird in Act 3. “The Blue Bird variation is one of the most challenging for a gentleman in classical ballet,” Edmond shares. A variation or pas seul is a solo dance and Edmond stresses this is one that will wow audiences.