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Ballet in the Park

Ballet In the Park’s Different Venues Keep Dancers On Their Toes

Nearly 300 people gathered in an Augusta park to watch dancers perform a “Snow White” ballet on Saturday.

Despite on-and-off-again rain and muddy grass, the performance dodged Saturday’s poor weather.

Ballet Wichita, a nonprofit dance company, has organized Ballet in the Park for almost 30 years. The event is free, is open to the public and is only 45 minutes long to cater toward children.

Overall, the atmosphere was relaxed and casual. Many children wore “Snow White” costumes and danced along with the ballet. The performers came off stage a number of times to dance between scattered rows of lawn chairs and picnic blankets in the audience.

“You have to be very comfortable with the role and with the choreography and be able to adjust with it on the fly,” said Remington Phillips, performer with Ballet Wichita who played the prince in “Snow White.” “Part of it is a huge challenge to know where the audience is going to be in a space like this. They can move around, and you never know what your stage space is going to be like, so it’s very adaptive.”

After the show, children waited in line to meet Phillips and Michael Lauren Phillips, who performed as Snow White. Remington Phillips said he loves seeing the inspiration children get from Ballet in the Park.

“With ‘The Nutcracker,’ we’re at Century II,” he said. “There’s a curtain between you and the audience, and you almost never see them. It’s really fun to interact with the kids and see how excited they are.”

The group performed in Mulvane on Thursday night, at Sedgwick County Park on Friday night and in Augusta and Udall on Saturday. The final show is Sunday at 2 pm in Haysville.

Sandy Wolter, executive director of Ballet Wichita, said more than 500 people attended the Sedgwick County Park performance.

“We’re able to travel to communities that don’t have as much access to arts as Wichita, like Augusta,” Wolter said. “They’re really grateful for us to come and do productions here.”

But performing in so many locations can present some challenges.

“We dance on so many different surfaces,” Wolter said. “Dancing en pointe on concrete, you have to plan for those things, and the weather is always a contingency to consider.”

Luckily, the Augusta show dodged the rain Saturday.

Chris Geeseka, an Augusta resident, ate sandwiches and snacks with his wife, 3-year-old son and 2-year-old daughter as they watched the show. Geeseka said this was his children’s first ballet.

“It’s definitely not your normal thing,” Geeseka said. “I’ve never been to a public ballet.”

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By Gabriella Dunn
The Wichita Eagle
Original Article