Not the same old song and dance
UTA-Ballet Arlington partnership pirouettes toward cultural enrichment
The Russians are not only coming—thanks to Ballet Arlington, they’re already here. And they’re dancing across the stage at UTA’s Texas Hall.
From modest beginnings in 1997, Ballet Arlington has grown to feature accomplished dancers from Russia’s most prestigious companies. Other outstanding artists have since joined, and today the company is led by co-artistic directors Paul Mejia and Alexander Vetrov.
“Part of our mission statement is to make the ballet affordable and accessible to anyone who wants to attend.”
– Ballet Arlington board member Cynthia Hill
Mejia danced with the New York City Ballet and was a student of the legendary George Balanchine. For several years he also served as artistic director of the Fort Worth Dallas Ballet. Vetrov began his career with the Bolshoi Ballet Theatre in Russia and in 1995 was named an Honored People’s Artist of Russia, one of that nation’s highest awards.
UTA Distinguished Alumnus Frank Hill and his wife, Cynthia, became involved with Ballet Arlington shortly after the company opened its doors. Soon they were serving on the board of directors.
“We have two small daughters,” Cynthia Hill noted, “and when they began taking ballet, we discovered that we had a community of people here from Russia who were well-schooled in ballet.”
Ballet Arlington first danced at Texas Hall in September 1997. “At that time, we were just under a standard contract with the University,” Hill said. “But then my husband began talking with [University President] Dr. Witt, and they agreed that we might be able to help each other.”
With three major productions each season at Texas Hall, Ballet Arlington brings a new community to the UTA campus. Each December, that community also includes every third-grade student in the Arlington public schools. Bus after bus pulls up behind Texas Hall, and out pour the 8- and 9-year-olds, many to see their first ballet performance.
“Part of our mission statement is to make the ballet affordable and accessible to anyone who wants to attend,” Hill said. The company performs an abbreviated Nutcracker for school children during their school day. Over several days, Ballet Arlington and UTA host about 9,000 children for the series of classic performances.
Anne Witt, a Music Department faculty member and wife of University President Robert E. Witt, also serves on the Ballet Arlington board. She says the UTA-Ballet Arlington connection is a great benefit to both institutions.
“Ballet Arlington has provided a significant enrichment to our cultural life at UTA,” she said. “Who would have imagined the spectacular quality of world-class dancers right here at Texas Hall? We are grateful to Frank and Cynthia Hill for their vision and hard work in making this impossible dream a reality at UTA.”
UTA has played a pivotal role in fulfilling Ballet Arlington’s dreams as well. “I don’t know what we would have done if it were not for the generosity of the University,” Hill said. In appreciation, Ballet Arlington offers special ticket prices to UTA faculty, staff and students.
So UTA offers a performance home to Ballet Arlington, and Ballet Arlington brings world-class dancers to the campus. Last spring, co-artistic director Vetrov even taught a class in the University’s theatre arts division.
It’s a win-win situation for both institutions, as well as for every ballet fan in the area.
– Sherry Wodraska Neaves