The Little Dancer: Sharing the Story Behind the Sculpture

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In 1881, Edgar Degas presented The Little Dancer of 14 years at The Sixth Impressionist Exhibition in Paris. His intention was to portray an everyday, Parisian girl who dreamed of a career in ballet. The public, more accustomed to seeing idealized versions of women portrayed in art, were not pleased, to say the least. In response, Degas removed The Little Dancer from display and stored it away in a closet, where the sculpture was hidden for decades.

On December 15-17, COCA Co-Artistic Directors Antonio Douthit-Boyd and Kirven Douthit Boyd are drawing inspiration from the true story for this year’s version of COCA’s holiday tradition, The Little Dancer: La Muse performed by Ballet Eclectica.

This year’s production builds on the changes that Antonio and Kirven introduced to last year’s show. COCA’s ballet company, Ballet Eclectica, pulls from the best of classical and contemporary ballet to build a repertoire fit for our top ballet students. Members of the company participate in a minimum of five dance classes a week at COCA and rehearse two times a week.

“Last year we really thought it was important to take her back to her roots in Paris,” says Kirven. “We also wanted to change the look of the production so that it mirrored more of a classical ballet. That was something that was very important to us in terms of the education and experience of our dancers.”

Familiar audience favorites like Sleigh Ride are still present, and The Little Dancer will still take the dreamer on a tour of different parts of Paris, including a stop at the Eiffel Tower. But new this year is a focus on the history behind The Little Dancer and how a common, young girl became a muse for the famous artist.

“We wanted to introduce Degas a little more into this production, so one of our dancers will be playing the character of Degas and he will reveal her,” says Antonio. “Also, his model was a dancer with the Paris Opera Ballet, so we take her back to the Paris Opera and she’s going to do a number there.”

This year’s production also includes live music transitions through each piece played COCA Music Director Colin Healy. And both Antonio and Kirven say they are already impressed with the work that the dancers of Ballet Eclectica have put in.

“The dancers are working hard, choreography is challenging and the production looks completely different,” adds Kirven. “I feel like if people were excited with what we did last year I think they’ll be even more surprised and excited about what we do this year.”

“I think we’ve challenged our apprentice company in a way that has pushed them so far. They are stepping up to the plate and I think they are going to shock the audience a lot,” says Antonio.

Join us Sunday following the 1:00PM performance for our Annual Little Dancer Tea! Attendees will enjoy Parisian-inspired snacks and sweet treats, meeting with the cast of The Little Dancer, a live mime and the sleigh used in the production will be out to take photos in this year!

Purchase tickets to The Little Dancer Tea

Purchase tickets to The Little Dancer: La Muse

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