At the exact moment that summer officially ended this year, the change came: the lows are dipping down, even the highs last for a smaller percentage of the day, and the air already sounds and smells like fall. With these changes come the great return to the outdoors.
One of the organized outdoor events that becomes possible at this time of year is Ballet Arizona's Ballet Under the Stars. It's a free event that they hold at a few parks around the Phoenix area. Instead of watching one ballet, you see a couple of individual pieces, each with their own style. So it's a good event to go to as an introduction to watching ballet, to get a sense of what types of shows you may or may not be interested in attending in the future. It's also great for families and young viewers who might not be able to sit through a full performance in a theatre environment yet.
I decided to go to the event in Fountain Hills because, well, I welcomed an excuse to go to Fountain Hills. For those unfamiliar with the area, Fountain Hills is one of the "fancy" areas, but it's different from Paradise Valley or even Scottsdale because it's intended to let you be a little closer to nature/simplicity, with a little less of the city feel. One of the prices of this atmosphere is that, like with Cave Creek, you do have to drive a bit out of the city to get to Fountain Hills. The route you take and the amount of open space that you encounter in your drive varies depending on where you're coming from in the city, but either way you will find some pretty views that almost remind me of Sedona, minus the red color of course.
Fountain Park is a walking path with lots of grass around it that encircles a large lake with the infamous fountain in the middle. When on, the fountain shoots water high, high into the sky. And the sky? As evening settled in, soon after I arrived, I was pleased to see that the stars are much more visible in Fountain Hills than in the city--not quite as clear as they are up North, but clear enough. So this was truly ballet under the stars.
If you're coming with your whole family (that is, a group versus just a couple people), I do advise arriving early to find a spot. However, if you arrive last minute, you do have the advantage of picking a spot where chairs won't obstruct your view. It's only an hour and a half event, so I have to admit that I feel like only people who need a chair should bring one; I found that there were way too many chairs. Just stick with a blanket; isn't that more fun, anyway? It adds to the atmosphere, so different from sitting in a chair at Symphony Hall. Here I could clap while sitting on the ground with my elbow wrapped around my knee--enjoy the casual setting.
In fact, the very effect of watching professional ballet performances here under the stars in a beautiful park that I had never been to before made the whole experience dreamlike. Despite being about halfway through the crowd, I was closer to the stage than I've been before at Symphony Hall, and that added an extra nuance. Usually when you watch Ballet Arizona, you can be far away because they put together such beautiful sets/backgrounds and costumes and the groups of dancers create such elaborate and precise shapes with their movements. But watching without all of those backgrounds and extra little elements, I liked getting to be a little closer. It was almost less like watching a "production" and more like seeing the magic of the performance. Now, of course the setting meant that they weren't accompanied by live music from the Phoenix Symphony, but their sound system really was quite good and as close to live music as a sound system can be.
Things like this make a community shine. I like going Downtown to Symphony Hall, sure, but this was also a wonderful experience--and a much more accessible event since it's free. There are two more nights coming up, in Tempe on Thursday and Goodyear on Saturday.