Ballet, as an art form, will always have to deal with a fair number of negative stereotypes. "It's boring." "It's girly." "It's for far stuffier folks than myself."
Ballet Arizona, the state's largest professional ballet company, isn't oblivious to these perceptions. They've been proactively countering these attitudes since 1998 with the annual "Ballet Under the Stars" series that takes ballet out of Symphony Hall in downtown Phoenix and into parks across the Valley.
"People think of ballet as an elitist art form," says Ballet Arizona director of production Michael Panvini. "We don't look at ballet that way. We think it's a universal art form, and that anybody that comes to the ballet can be moved by it, and we want to make it accessible to them."
"Ballet Under the Stars" is a chance for the company to dance in front of people who may never see it otherwise.
"We want to make sure that we hit the widest audience possible," says Panvini. "This is essentially one of our outreach programs to get ballet in front of people who wouldn't get a chance to see us at Symphony Hall or the Orpheum (Theatre, in Phoenix), and hopefully catch enough of their imagination that they might think about coming out and seeing us again."
And by all accounts, it's been successful. Panvini says the shows average 1,000 to 2,000 people, with numbers as high as 3,000 in Tempe.
It hits fourparks this year, Tempe Center for the Arts and, for the first time, a college campus (South Mountain Community College).
The approximately hourlong show will consist of an excerpt from Ballet Arizona artistic director Ib Andersen's "play" and his version of "Dance of the Hours" from the opera "La Gioconda."
Following a brief intermission, the program picks up with the entirety of "Four Temperaments" by noted 20th-century choreographer George Balanchine. Essentially, it's a mix of classic and contemporary and a solid entry point for those new to ballet.
"We're trying to break up the stereotypes and really let people know that it's enjoyable to one and all," says Panvini.