“DANCING ON THE ROAD BACK HOME” — Coming to Union HS in Big Stone Gap, VA on April 15, 2023

Big Stone Gap, VA – Anticipating Richmond Ballet’s return to Southwest Virginia next week, Wise-native Tracy Roberts remembers her first role as a professional ballerina. “It never would’ve happened if it hadn’t been for Daisy Portuondo.” Roberts began ballet lessons at five years old thanks to the efforts of many, led by Portuondo, to bring classical dance instructors to the area, eventually founding the Wise School of Dance and the Pro-Art Association. Pro-Art introduced Roberts to performance, and a vocation that would define her career. “The arts changed my life,” Roberts said.

At the Wise School of Dance, young Roberts was mesmerized by her teachers, “That’s where I learned I love to perform.” Over the years, the focus and discipline of her artistry never wavered; Roberts attended dance intensives in North Carolina, Washington D.C., New York City, and Boston during summer breaks in high school. She was working toward her B.F.A in dance at the University of North Carolina School of the Arts when her mother, Lona Roberts, sent an article announcing Richmond Ballet’s transition to becoming a professional company—and their call for auditions. Roberts was twenty years old when she joined Richmond Ballet in 1984 as one of their original professional company members. She was offered her first-ever contract by Stoner Winslett, who remains the Ballet’s Artistic Director. By then Portuondo was fully immersed, directing Pro-Art, so when she learned Roberts had joined the company, she immediately arranged a tour to Wise. “What a great homecoming that was,” remembers Roberts, “To come back to where it all started.”

Pro-Art and the State Ballet of Virginia have maintained a close relationship ever since. Richmond Ballet II will present an evening of classical and contemporary works highlighting the versatility, dynamic energy, and intense emotion for which the company is known on Saturday, April 15th at 7 p.m. in the Union High School Auditorium in Big Stone Gap, VA in conjunction with Pro-Art’s 46th season. Adult tickets are $10 at the door. Children and students will be admitted free.

Artistic Director Stoner Winslett’s “Rachmaninoff Rhapsody” sweeps audiences away with its elegant costumes, lush music, and virtuosic dancing. “Stay” by Sarah Ferguson is a contemporary pas de deux that portrays the remembrance of a loved one who has been lost, and the idea of their spirit or memory visiting for just a brief moment, where you wish you both could stay. Inspired by the iconic 1967 film of the same name, “Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner” by Jennifer Archibald addresses the intolerances faced by interracial couples and highlights the fortitude, simplicity, and beauty of love. Set to music by soul legends such as Donny Hathaway and Ray Charles, this powerful work breathes new life into a vintage Hollywood story. Closing the program is Ma Cong’s “Thrive,” a joyful ballet exploring the depth and intensity of energetic connections. For more information and reservations, please visit proartva.org.

Pro-Art partners with a variety of venues, therefore individuals with mobility issues or general questions are encouraged to call (276) 376-4520 or email the Pro-Art office at pro-art@uvawise.edu. For evolving conditions related to weather cancellations, or similar unforeseen circumstances, patrons are encouraged to check proartva.org for up-to-date information.

This performance is made possible in part by a grant from the Virginia Commission for the Arts and the National Endowment for the Arts. Pro-Art is additionally supported by the Slemp Foundation, The University of Virginia’s College at Wise, Mountain Empire Community College, and the Columbus Phipps Foundation.

Photo Credits:

Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner: Eri Nishihara and Zacchaeus Page in Guess Who’s Coming To Dinner by Jennifer Archibald. Richmond Ballet. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Thrive: Richmond Ballet dancers in Thrive by Ma Cong. Richmond Ballet. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.

Stay: Cody Beaton and Joe Seaton in Stay by Sarah Ferguson. Richmond Ballet. All Rights Reserved. Photo by Sarah Ferguson.


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