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Ballet Arts to honor memory of Pat Brown with performance of ‘The Nutcracker’

Caroline Meinert is in the middle of her third year of preparing for a production of “The Nutcracker” since returning home to Jackson to serve as the artistic director for Ballet Arts of Jackson in 2020.

With productions happening at the Carl Perkins Civic Center (400 South Highland Avenue in Downtown Jackson) this weekend at 7 p.m. on Friday and Saturday and 2 p.m. on Sunday, the final week leading up to the show is always among the most hectic as dancers get accustomed to the larger space of the stage as opposed to the studio at Pat Brown Dancing School.

“It takes a couple of days for the dancers to get used to the space, but it takes us a couple of rounds through rehearsals to figure out where each dancer needs to be in each scene as far as the space each one occupies,” Meinert said. “But once we get all of that figured out, it’s simply practicing and rehearsing for the final two or three days leading up to the show.”

The production marks the end of a four-month long process that starts with auditions in early August and cast assignments the week before Labor Day. Then three months of rehearsals leading up to the performance.

“This is my third year directing ‘The Nutcracker,’ and each year I think there’s no way the group we’re working with can be topped because of the dedication and maturity I saw from the dancers,” Meinert said. “And then the next year, the dancers do it again.

“And this year is the same. I’m so proud of how far everyone has come, and it’s because of how hard everyone has worked.”

The entire organization at Ballet Arts of Jackson is mourning the loss of one of its founders, Pat Brown, who died on Friday after a brief illness. The cast gathered at Pat Brown Dancing School on Friday night for a rehearsal that was already scheduled a week ahead of opening night, but there was time reserved for everyone to react and mourn together.

“We had a nice time together remembering Miss Pat, particularly the older ones who were among her last students when she was still teaching,” Meinert said. “But one thing we all agreed on as a group was something she told most of us if not all of us: The show must go on.

“And we all decided together then that this performance this weekend is going to be dedicated to her because she will have the best seat in the house to watch.”

Meinert said anyone who wants to bring a photo of Brown or something that sparks a memory of her and hang it on a special Christmas tree being put up in her honor in the lobby of the Civic Center is welcomed to do so this weekend.

“We’re doing that and hope anyone that wants to be a part of that will do so,” Meinert said. “And we’ve got a couple of other things planned for the production itself.”

Tickets for all shows and the Land of the Sweets Tea Party what will happen on Saturday and Sunday 90 minutes prior to showtime are available at www.tix.com. Tea Party tickets start at $50 to $60, and ballet tickets range from $20-$30.

Brandon Shields, brandon@jacksonpost.news

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