When people talk about free events, they tend to miss what really makes them great. The fact that no money is required for entry is nice. But what’s even better is the laidback feel, ability to be spontaneous, and sense of community that is more likely when there’s no price of admission.
Sure, I like dressing up and watching a performance in a reserved symphony hall seat once in awhile. But I also like taking in a ballet while sitting cross-legged with a cooler full of my favorite snacks and beverages at my side.
Free usually means not having to bother with tickets. You can decide to go or not go at the last minute if you need/want to. Free can bring typically inside events (Shakespeare) outside (…in the park). You can enjoy good weather AND enjoy the arts, instead of it being an either/or scenario.
Ballet Under the Stars
I love Ballet Arizona’s annual event, Ballet Under the Stars. I try to make it to the performance at Tempe Center for the Arts every September. By then, the evenings have usually cooled off, and it’s lovely to be out next to the lake, under the sky, instead of stuck inside hugging the air conditioning vents (which is basically what you do all summer in Phoenix.) You can spread a blanket out on the grass or bring folding chairs.
You see lots of people with kids, little girls wearing tutus and dancing along. But it’s not just for people with kids. You also see seniors and ASU students, and everyone in between. There’s always a huge turnout, and it seems to grow every year.
The program is usually a mix of the traditional ballet that most of us associate with the art form and more contemporary pieces, showcasing excerpts from upcoming performances. There is also a performance from kids in the community who have participated in the company’s Class Act program.
Last year, I took the neighborhood shuttle over with a picnic and a blanket. I got there about 6:30, got a decent spot (6:00 would probably get you a super spot!), and watched the dancers warm up. Phillip took the light rail after work and found me just before the performance began.
For the main course of our picnic, Wildflower Bread Company’s Roasted Sweet Potato sandwich gave me idea for a veggie grilled cheese with sliced leftover sweet potatoes, onions, bell peppers and gouda cheese between two slices of bread toasted on the outside. I wrapped each sandwich in foil to keep them (mostly) warm until Phillip got there. They were just a little messy and some of the melted cheese wanted to stick to the foil, but it worked pretty well overall.
We munched, took in the performance, laid back, and looked at the stars. And that’s a wonderful way to experience the ballet.
What to know about Ballet Under the Stars:
- There are performances all over the Phoenix area, September 18-27 at 7pm.
- Admission is free, but you can make a donation to support Ballet Arizona online or at an event.
- No photography is permitted during the event. (Post photos were taken before it.)
- Bring something to sit on (blanket, lawn chair, etc.).
- You don’t have to be silent, just don’t be annoying. Expect there to be general kid noise and people-coming-and-going noise. Whisper a comment to your friend if you want – just don’t talk over the whole performance.
Transportation/Parking for the Tempe Center for the Arts Performance
- DO NOT plan to park at Tempe Center for the Arts unless your car has a disability plate or decal! Because Ballet Under the Stars is such a huge event, that night the entire lot is used for ADA parking. There’s always a long line of cars waiting to get in the lot and most of them are turned away. It causes a big traffic snarl.
- Park at the U.S. Airways Garage at 111 W. Rio Salado Parkway (enter off of Ash Avenue). It’s free after 6 p.m., and it’s about a 1/2 mile walk.
- Or don’t park at all. TAC is about 3/4 mile from the Mill Avenue/Third Street light rail stop.