Ballet & beach blankets?

There’s a Valley tradition that Lizabeth and I have enjoyed together for many years — the annual “Ballet Under the Stars” performance by Ballet Arizona.

When she studied with the School of Ballet Arizona, we’d go each year with fellow dance students and stage parents to Indian Steele Park to watch a free Ballet Arizona performance under the dark, glistening night sky.

Future ballerina meets real ballerina? (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor for Ballet Arizona)

Happily, the event takes place over a series of evenings — at various locations throughout the Valley.

Here’s where you can enjoy a performance (or two or three) during the week ahead:

Wednesday, Sept 22: Beardsley Park in Sun City West

Thursday, Sept 23: Fountain Park in Fountain Hills

Friday, Sept 24: Tempe Center for the Arts Amphitheater

Saturday, Sept 25: Steele Indian School Park in Phoenix

Sunday, Sept 26: Sahuaro Ranch Park in Glendale

We first enjoyed a “Ballet Under the Stars” performance many, many years ago when dancers from Ballet Arizona performed at Margaret T. Hance Park, near the Burton Barr Central Library in Phoenix. It may have been during the program’s first offering in the late ’90s.

In its twelve years, the program has been experienced by more than 60,000 Valley residents including kids, moms and dads, grandparents, and grown-ups on date nights or evenings out with friends.

I think I had all three of my young children with me that first time around, along with a large blanket and a bucket of KFC with fixings. It’s truly a perfect event for all ages — long enough to feature some exquisite dancing, but short enough to keep the young ones’ attention.

Folks who attend often bring blankets, towels or short portable chairs along — in addition to picnic baskets or food fetched at the drive-though. Little ones are fine in strollers, but check local park policies before bringing pets along.

A stellar Ballet Arizona performance (Photo by Rosalie O'Connor for Ballet Arizona)

The program typically features a trio of works — which for this season includes excerpts from “Divermento #15” and “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” as well as a full performance of the piece “The Four Temperaments.”

The most charming part of the evening for me is always seeing the tiniest of the tots run toward the stage with wild abandon, dancing freestyle to the music and loving every single “under the stars” moment. Sometimes the little girls sport their own tiny tutus.

“Ballet Under the Stars” never fails to deliver a stellar performance and playful audience amidst outdoor settings that make for the perfrect marriage of casual and elegant. You just can’t find better free entertainment for the whole family.


Note: Click here to learn more about Ballet Arizona offerings — including their 2010-2011 season performances, classes with the School of Ballet Arizona and more.

Coming up: Performance art meets circus flair, Social justice takes to the stage