Ballet honors slain Birmingham arts patron - WBRC FOX6 News - Birmingham, AL

Ballet honors slain Birmingham arts patron

The Birmingham Ballet rehearses for "The Awakening." Source: Clare Huddleston The Birmingham Ballet rehearses for "The Awakening." Source: Clare Huddleston
BIRMINGHAM, AL (WBRC) -

When a Mountain Brook socialite was murdered in her bed in 1977. The story demanded headlines.  Now, that cold case is coming to life again through the arts.

The Birmingham Ballet prepares a performance called "The Awakening" to honor Virginia Simpson. 

She was a mentor to many who studied the arts and one of those dancers she recruited to Birmingham in 1974 has always wanted to pay tribute to her in this way.  He just never had the right company nor the resources to pull it off until now.

In 1974, Alfonso Figueroa uprooted his life in Boston and moved to Birmingham with a vision of transforming a community ballet into the first professional ballet company in the southeast.  For three years, he worked alongside Simpson.

"She had a terrific instinct for what was right in a ballet," said Figueroa. But that talent was cut tragically short when Simpson was found shot to death in her home in 1977.  Her son was originally charged, but the charges were later dropped.  It's that story Figueroa is featuring in "The Awakening."

"I didn't have to come up with the idea.  This is real life.  This happened," said Figueroa, "This is not a sad dance ok we're not commemorating her death.  We're celebrating her life."

In "The Awakening" you'll see a vigil to mourn Simpson's death, but the finale is supposed to leave you with a sense of hope.

"It's more of a - it's not ending here," said Cole Companion, who plays a young Figueroa in the production, "It's not over yet regardless of what happened we're going to continue this for what it's supposed to be."

That's exactly what Simpson would have wanted.

"She was the patron for the arts in Birmingham," said Companion, "She's the reason we have a symphony, we have ballets, why Birmingham has arts and culture today.  She was the foundation for it."

"The Awakening" premieres May 5th at 7:30 p.m. at the BJCC.  Tickets range from $25-$45 and can be purchased in advance or at the door.  For more information log onto www.birminghamballet.com.

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