Blackbird dance performance will bring Virginia space to life again

Christopher Harris photo

Now that it's been cleaned out, the Virginia Cinema space will play host to a "raw" performance of Blackbird Dance Theatre's "The Broken Queen" on Saturday, September 29, presented by Watershed Arts Alliance.

For years, only echoes of footsteps were heard in the empty hall of the Virginia Cinema. This month, for the first time in decades, those feet will touch the floor once more in the form of dance.

Blackbird Dance Theatre of Lexington will perform "The Broken Queen" in the Virginia on Saturday, September 29, presented by Watershed Arts Alliance.

Wynona Padgett, Watershed Director, noted that it's the first full event to be held at the Virginia since the cleaning process was completed in recent months.

"I think that's one of the most exciting things about this particular event," she said. "I'm looking forward to the dancers and performers obviously, but being inside that theater, to envision what it can be someday, will make the evening so exciting."

Ticket availability is limited -- only 100 tickets are being sold, $30 each. Padgett said that's because the space in the Virginia is unfinished and "completely raw," without plumbing and electricity, and so fore safety's sake, admittance is being kept low. Also, she advised anyone coming to bring a lawn chair or blanket to sit on, as the space is still without seating.

"This is an unfurnished space," said Padgett. "It is completely raw."

The performance will be from 6 p.m. to 9 p.m.

Tickets are available at

Amanda Balltrip, vice-president of Watershed, went to the University of Kentucky with Jenny Fitzpatrick, the artistic director for Blackbird Dance Theatre.

"Even though we didn't connect at UK at the same time, I saw what she was doing when Blackbird began to take shape," said Balltrip. "I just really admired how she was able to cultivate this group of people who are so expressive through movement."

A contemporary, theatre-based company, Blackbird will be presenting "The Broken Queen," which was written, directed, costumed, and choreographed by Fitzpatrick, with music by Duane Lundy. A Lexington Herald-Leader article from September 21, 2017 described it as being a story inspired by FItzpatrick's own life with her sister and niece -- the latter of whom, Sara, was killed in a car accident during the creation of the work. The performance and story is described as having a fantasy-like feel to it, otherwordly and driven by human emotions.

"It's not just a dance theater, it's a piece of a book, a visual album of original music," said Balltrip. "What excited me about it is that it's an original piece that has been produced in this region and is getting a lot of attention."

The Virginia Cinema, one of downtown Somerset's longstanding classic movie houses, closed in 1994, but efforts to revitalize it have been ongoing for years, with a strong recent push to find renewed purpose for the space. After cleaning out the dilapidated theater, the space was opened to the public earlier this year during a Somerset-Pulaski County Chamber of Commerce Block Party to show community members what had been done, with a screening of the film "Casablanca" being projected onto the wall. This performance made possible by Watershed Arts Alliance continues that forward progress toward a renovated Virginia.

Somerset will benefit from a double dose of Blackbird, however, as the next day, Sunday, September, 30 from 2 p.m. to 4 p.m., the company will will be holding a character and storytelling workshop for dancers and actors at Pep & Pizzazz Cheer and Dance at 125 Old Monticello Street. Cost is $25 and will be paid to Pep & Pizzazz the day of the workshop. Payment may be made by cash, check, or card.

"We're so excited," said Britani Shoemaker, owner of Pep & Pizzazz. "I've seen Blackbird perform several times, and was really excited when Amanda presented the opportunity to bring them to Somerset. It's just a great opportunity in our area to experience something of that caliber."