Stage & Dance

WEG opening ceremony to feature 600 people, 200 horses

Six hundred people and two hundred horses will prance, dance and perform in the opening ceremonies of the Alltech FEI World Equestrian Games next year.

The acts will include well-known equine and artistic performers including opera star Denyce Graves and the Culver Academy's Black Horse Troupe, which has marched in the past 15 presidential elections.

"We are very excited about this," said Everett McCorvey, the director of the University of Kentucky's opera program who took over the directorial reins of the opening and closing ceremonies in August.

McCorvey said he is in talks with several other groups, including the Alvin Ailey Dance Theatre and Arlo Guthrie. But he acknowledged "we had some catching up to do" after getting a late start.

McCorvey has served on the World Games Board of Directors for several years and said he had been part of discussions with national and international event producers. But after the economic downturn, organizers turned to McCorvey, who co-produced a lauded performance of "Our Lincoln" at the Kennedy Center in Washington D.C. last year.

"All along, I've been on board because I was very interested in making sure the arts were represented," he said.

McCorvey said he has $1 million to pull of the opening and closing ceremonies, which will be held on Sept. 25 and Oct. 10, 2010.

In contrast, the Beijing Olympics opening ceremony in 2008 was estimated to cost between $100 million and $300 million.

There will be lots of familiar faces. UK Symphony director and conductor John Nardolillo will be conducting the live orchestra; the American Spiritual Ensemble, which McCorvey founded, will also perform.

The theme of the opening ceremonies, which will be held at the main stadium, is "Artistry in Motion." According to conceptual plans, musical performances will be intersected with equine displays.

McCorvey said the closing ceremonies will be more like "a party," with fireworks, and musicians from all over Kentucky and the country.

In other WEG news:

■ 146,000 tickets have been sold, organizers said. About 18,000 room nights have been reserved for national federations, 10,000 room nights have been reserved for groups and 15,000 nights for individuals;

■ Marketing director Terry Johnson said he is negotiating with 10 different possible sponsors. If and when those are signed, the organizers will have reached 86 percent of their sponsorship goals;

■ Sports entrepreneur Jim Host will return to the WEG foundation to help with revenue generation, organizers said.

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