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Calvin to Debut Petra Ballet
June 1, 2005

Gordon Peirce Schmidt is choreographing a new ballet, to debut in July, which will celebrate the ancient, Middle eastern city of Petra.

Schmidt is the executive artistic director of the Grand Rapids Ballet Company which will perform both Scheherazade and Schmidt's new Petra ballet from 8-9:30 p.m. on July 21, 22 and 23 at the Calvin College Fine Arts Center.

The $30 ticket price for the ballet event includes a ticket to Petra: Lost City of Stone, the comprehensive exhibition of Nabataean culture housed at Calvin College from now through August 15.

Schmidt says it's always a challenge to come up with a new ballet, adding that it's even a bigger challenge to create a new dance based on an ancient culture that still remains a something of a mystery.

He was game to try, however, when he got the call from Souzan Karadsheh, Calvin's hospitality events manager.

Karadsheh had come up with the idea of a Petra-related ballet while reading a magazine article that mentioned the Grand Rapids Ballet Company's performance of Scheherazade, another ballet with a Middle Eastern theme that employs Schmidt's choreography.

Karadsheh invited the company to perform Scheherazade at Calvin as a cultural offering to accompany the exhibition.

She also requested that, as a companion to Scheherazade, Schmidt create a special ballet to evoke the ancient city of Petra.

The request sent Schmidt on a research expedition.

"I'm listening to a lot of Middle Eastern music," he says. "Some of the music I'm listening to is very haunting."

He is also studying the history of the Nabataeans, the nomadic, Middle Eastern culture that created the ancient city of Petra - a culture still being unearthed and investigated.

"It's going to be a pure dance piece, using the music of the Middle East to evoke the sense of history in Petra," he says of the new offering.

And, for both Scheherazade and the Petra ballet, only the professional dancers from the Grand Rapids Ballet Company will perform. In fact the professional dancers were put on a longer contract because of this event.

Karadsheh says the ballet is a good fit with the many educational and cultural events Calvin has built around Petra: Lost City of Stone, including lectures, culinary events (things such as Taste of the Mediterranean and Mezze and Music) and all-day events like the Petra Family Festival.

"We planned them so that every month there is something happening," she says. "I'm really looking forward to the ballet, because it will be a first-class event."

Organized by the American Museum of Natural History and the Cincinnati Art Museum, and presented under the patronage of Her Majesty Queen Rania Al-Abdullah of Jordan, Petra is the first major cultural collaboration between Jordan and the United States. Air transportation generously provided by Royal Jordanian.