Starting a new school year is a time of renewal: children return to school, new notebooks, new books, new pencils, new classes, etc. It’s also the exciting time of a new season for all of the arts. I mention both education and arts together as they go hand in hand.

Not all children are stimulated by only the three “Rs.” Drawing, acting, singing, playing an instrument, and dancing reach many in a way that makes learning a joy. That’s one of the many jewels of being in the rich city of Peoria, Illinois. The opera, a symphony, art galleries, two professional dance companies, community theaters, chorale groups, and many more are committed to not only outstanding art, but to education as well. Each offers outstanding work for adults and children—and all of this makes Peoria a great place to live.

It’s important that we don’t take all of this for granted. We can and must be involved—whether attending, donating, volunteering, etc. It’s an investment of quality of life for years to come.

I’ve been so happy to be a part of Peoria for these past 10 years and working with so many of these arts groups. Of course, being artistic director of The Illinois Ballet, that’s where I spend most of my time, but I’ve so enjoyed working with Opera Illinois in La Traviata, Hansel and Gretel, Il Trovatore, Amahl and the Night Visitor, Don Giovanni, Rigoletto, and Aida; with The Central Illinois Youth Symphony in Copland’s “Appalachian Spring”; every summer with Dave Vroman and the Peoria Muncipal Band; with John Jost and the Bradley University Chorale in Vivaldi’s “Gloria” and Brahams’ “Leibeslieder Waltzes”; with the Bradley University Faculty in “Ecstatic Dance” by Emanuel Amiran-Pougatchov and “Six Metamorphosis after Ovid, Opus 49” by Benjamin Britten; with the Bradley University Theatre and the Music Department on the musicals Ruddigore and She Loves Me; with Cornstock Theatre in The Who’s Tommy; with the Contemporary Art Center; with musician Paul Adams in “The Land of Pimiteoui,” The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe, and his new work from the Nirons, “Get Up and Dance”; and with The National Ballet of Panama when our company was brought to Panama City, Panama, to dance with their company in the ballets Sleeping Beauty and Don Quixote.

The Illinois Ballet is committed in its mission to showcase all types of dance and to restage the classics for central Illinois to enjoy. We’ve done Swan Lake, Sleeping Beauty, and Les Sylphides; many years we do innovative works like Rock Ballet and Carmina Burana.

This is going to be a great new year. We’re kicking off our season with the all-time favorite, Cinderella. We’re performing it in Galesburg at the Orpheum Theatre Novmeber 12 and at the Peoria Civic Center November 19. In the spring, we’ll do the great classical ballet, Don Quixote. In April, we’ll perform with John Jost and the Peoria Civic Chorale.

Cheers to all for a great new season. AA!