Arts & Culture
North Carolina Dance Theatre
Certainly you've seen Nicholle Rochelle's image. Her ecstatic grand jeté graces all NCDT marketing materials this season; her pristine extension dots the "i" on Charlotte Culture Guide billboards. But if you haven't seen her in person—seen her dance—then you're missing one of the city's finest arts offerings. Her bold expression adds hot moxie to any modern or jazz-influenced work; her classical ballet is lithe and lyrical.
Gem of the Ocean
Actor's Theatre of Charlotte
Ultimately, any production is only as good as its material. Even on paper, Gem of the Ocean is (dare we say it?) a gem, a haunting and lyrical play about African-Americans at the dawn of the last century. Actor's Theatre of Charlotte did this brilliant work justice. From the superb acting (especially Karen Abercrombie as Aunt Ester) to the musical soundtrack to the beautifully integrated audience, Gem of the Ocean sparkled.
Friends of Music at Queens
The Friends of Music at Queens's presentation of the Marian Anderson String Quartet demonstrated the way to make a rarefied art form—chamber music—speak to the lives of the multitudes. In residency for most of a week, the four women of the quartet performed entertaining and educational "demonstration concerts" to large and diverse crowds at libraries, museums, and on the Queens campus.
Artist on the verge
We're often looking to "claim" celebrities, but singer Nicole Atkins claims us. While she certainly represents her New Jersey roots—she titled her debut album Neptune City after the town where she grew up—she frequently shouts out the Queen City in interviews. Atkins graduated from UNC-Charlotte and spent more than six years here. Since her album was released in late October on Columbia Records (her eclectic sound is often described as folk pop), she's been touring the country and making appearances on late-night talk shows.
Michael and Christine Swanson
Michael and Christine Swanson started Faith Filmworks in 1999 to create movies that promoted morals and family values. And the married couple—Michael's the producer, Christine's the writer/director—have found success, showing their films at prestigious film festivals. In November, they released the romantic drama All About Us, starring Boris Kodjoe, Ryan Michelle Bathé, and Academy Award nominee Ruby Dee. And to the delight of Charlotteans, they held a premiere at Ballantyne Village Theatre, where the film's stars were in attendance.
Opera, with its opulent sets, virtuosic singing, and live orchestra, is always a spectacle. But Opera Carolina's production of Aida redefined the word "extravaganza." Not only were there extraordinary singers and "oooh"-inspiring sets, but there were live animals: a camel, a horse, a zebra, a watusi (look it up), and boa constrictors on the Belk Theater stage. And no stampedes.
Providence Chamber Music Series
The temptation for any arts or cultural group is to consistently program the familiar. The Providence Chamber Music Series, a series of free concerts by (mostly) Charlotte Symphony musicians, goes its own way. From the world premiere by local composer Walter Hartley, on its season opener, to works by female composers Jeanine Rueff and Rebecca Clarke to an evening of Renaissance songs by John Dowland, this music series proves that untried can still be true.
Drew Allison for The BFG, Children's Theatre of Charlotte
Re-creating Roald Dahl's captivating novel The BFG for the stage presents some unusual challenges: the characters are a mix of humans and giants. But with Drew Allison's creations, Children's Theatre's production was a towering success. Worn by actors, Allison's humongous puppets and costumes brought the likes of Fleshlumpeater and Childchewer out of the reader's imagination and into ImaginOn.
Guide to events
Launched last year by the Arts & Science Council, this site features the most comprehensive list of arts and cultural events taking place in the Charlotte area. The Web site is easy to maneuver, allowing you to search for events by date, genre, part of town, or even those that are free. Whether you're looking for a play, concert, festival, or outing for the kids, you'll find it here.
There are now more gallery crawls than ever around town. But while those in Plaza Midwood and South End are picking up, NoDa's gallery crawl remains the best. Taking place the first and third Fridays of each month, the section of the arts district surrounding North Davidson and East Thirty-sixth streets, becomes alive as shop and gallery owners prop open their doors (Center of the Earth Gallery, Real Eyes Bookstore, Rat's Nest, etc.), while live music plays on sidewalks. The crawl usually gets going around 6 p.m., and often lasts as long as the crowd does.
Effort to attract young theatergoers
There's often much ballyhoo about young adults not supporting the arts. Well the folks at the Blumenthal Performing Arts Center just may have found the trick. Entice twenty- and thirty-somethings with pre-show mixers that include complimentary food and drinks, group their tickets so they can sit among each other at shows, and give the group a cool name like Club Blume. It's easy to join and there's no membership fee (other than the cost of tickets). Event attendance for Club Blume ranges from thirty to sixty members, and shows like Lion King and Wicked have attracted more than 100.