Dance

Monday, October 26, 2015

MJ Urban Ballet Launches at Hard Rock Cafe

Posted By on Mon, Oct 26, 2015 at 2:25 PM

Jookin in Memphis
  • Jookin in Memphis

U-Dig Dance Academy co-founder Tarrik Moore is launching a new project to showcase Memphis Jookin. 
MJ Urban Ballet is being described as an "evolution" of urban dance in Memphis, and as a more overt hybrid of hip-hop and traditional ballet.

Moore has exposed more that 7000 students to Memphis dance and hopes that a successful capital campaign for MJ Urban Ballet will help him triple that number in short order. In addition to dance, the new program will expose students to photography, clothing manufacturing, graphic design, carpentry, flooring and other potential avenues of employment. 


Moore is joined in this endeavor by his wife Kia, who hopes to use her experience with non-profit organizations to build stronger relationships with established arts organizations. She also wants to build an endowment that will eventually cover tuition costs for students.  

MJ Urban Ballet makes its first public appearance at 6 p.m., Tuesday, Oct. 27th at the Hard Rock Cafe on Beale St. According to press materials the opening event will "combine traditional ballet
technique, classic pop music and urban-nuanced hip-hop dance for a unique experience."

Ballet and Jookin have been dancing partners for some time, and Memphis' influence on the classical form has grown in recent years

 This event is FREE and open to the public. For more information, visit the U-Dig website.  

Friday, June 12, 2015

New Ballet Ensemble Starts the Summer with Springloaded

Posted By on Fri, Jun 12, 2015 at 12:48 PM

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New Ballet Ensemble's annual spring concert is coming a little late this year. Tonight's event at the McCoy Theatre at Rhodes College is a pay-what-you-can opportunity to sample all the things Memphis' classically rooted, fusion-minded company does best. It's also provides me with a perfectly good excuse to serve up a little Christmas in June and share some never before seen footage of Jookin ambassador Lil Buck in NBE's 2014 production of Nut ReMix.


Thursday, May 14, 2015

There's So Much Dance in Memphis this Weekend

Posted By on Thu, May 14, 2015 at 5:04 PM

"Harlem" by New Ballet Ensemble
  • "Harlem" by New Ballet Ensemble
What would you like to see most? Would you like to see the dancers in an established classical company doing personal, all-original work? Or maybe you'd prefer to see a modern company setting family histories into motion? How about a critically acclaimed tribute to the music of Duke Ellington, fusing various dance styles with heavy doses of ballet and Memphis street? It all sounds good, doesn't it? And here's the nifty thing: You don't have to choose. It's all on tap in Memphis this weekend. And some of it is either pay-what-you-can or free. 

INTERIORWORKS is an annual pay-what-you-can opportunity to see what the dancers of Ballet Memphis come up with when left to their own devices. The 16th installment in the ongoing series runs through Saturday, May 16, at Ballet Memphis' home base on Trinity road. The suggested $10 donation benefits the Artists Resource Fund for dancers in career transition.

The dancers of Project: Motion always start with a concept.  For Bloodlines + Bylines guest artist and writer, Anna Esquivel has been tasked with weaving together the threads of various family histories collected from Knowledge Quest Memphis, the Madonna Learning Center, and Town Village at Audubon. The original choreography for Bloodlines + Bylines was created by Project: Motion dancers Bethany Wells Bak, Rebecca Cochran, Emily Hefley, Louisa Koeppel, and Wayne M. Smith.

The works will be presented on a stage without wings, eliminating the boundaries between onstage and offstage, and putting the dancers in a position where they are performing continuously. To get the inside scoop, click here. 
In motion: "Bloodlines + Bylines"
  • In motion: "Bloodlines + Bylines"

Bloodlines + Bylines opens Friday, May 15, 2015 at 8 p.m. at the Evergreen Theatre and runs through
Sunday, May 17. Tickets are $15 for adults, $12 for students & seniors.

Saturday night at the Levitt Shell in Overton Park, New Ballet Ensemble teams up with the Memphis Symphony Orchestra to revive its critically acclaimed "Harlem." You can read all the details here, in a piece I wrote for Memphis Magazine's 901 Blog. Best of all, it's absolutely free. And coolers are welcom. 

Thursday, February 19, 2015

Ballet Memphis Presents "I Am"

Posted By on Thu, Feb 19, 2015 at 12:25 PM

Ballet Memphis
  • Ballet Memphis

Ballet Memphis describes I Am as a, "symphony of struggles and triumphs in four world premiere works." The evening showcases new work by a quartet of notable choreographers from the four corners of America — Reggie Wilson, Julia Adam, Gabrielle Lamb, and Memphis' own Steven McMahon.

Here's a preview...


And another...


Friday, January 23, 2015

See Memphis Dancer Lil Buck in the Trailer to Spike Lee's Film, "Da Sweet Blood of Jesus."

Posted By on Fri, Jan 23, 2015 at 4:54 PM

Buck & Spike
  • Buck & Spike

If you have not seen it yet you really do need to check out Memphis' own Jookin ambassador, Charles "Lil Buck" Riley, in the opening credits to Spike Lee's new film Da Sweet Blood of Jesus, which opens in theaters Feb.13th. It's kinda beautiful. And if you haven't read it yet, you also want to check out the fantastic interview he gave The Flyer in Nov. when he came home to dance in New Ballet Ensemble's Nut ReMix


It's worth noting that shortly after Lil Buck's loving shout out to Stephen Colbert's natural Jookin abilities, he was prominently featured in the Colbert Report's grand finale.   

And to think, it all started with a bunch of teenagers in a parking lot... 


Monday, May 12, 2014

Memphis' New Ballet Ensemble Performs With the National Symphony, Brings DC Audiences to Their Feet

Posted By on Mon, May 12, 2014 at 3:55 PM

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New Ballet Ensemble performed a commissioned piece with the National
Symphony Orchestra this week and, although reviews for the New Moves: Symphony + Dance event were mixed, things went well for the Memphis-based company.

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Really well.

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To read the full Washington Post review click here.

NBE performs a final show with the NSO Tuesday, May 13.

Wednesday, May 7, 2014

New Moves: New Ballet Ensemble to Perform at the Kennedy Center- May 10-13th

Posted By on Wed, May 7, 2014 at 11:44 AM

New Ballet Ensemble
  • New Ballet Ensemble

The most exciting thing about the New Ballet Ensemble & School (NBE) is that the company consistently lives up to its name. If the moves coming out of NBE aren't all hot off the grill the combinations are certainly fresh, pulling together Memphis street, ballet, and flamenco in a way that lets all three traditions stand out even as they disappear into the gumbo. It only makes sense that the company that helped to launch the career of super jooker Charles "Lil Buck" Riley would be chosen as one of three dance companies nationwide to perform in the Kennedy Center's NEW MOVES: symphony + dance Concert with the National Symphony Orchestra in Washington, D.C.

Over the course of a two-week festival conductor Thomas Wilkins will introduce audiences to works by American artists coupled with world premier dance commissions.


New Ballet Ensemble rehearses "SpringLoaded"

NBE's commissioned work was created by the company's founding artistic director, Katie Smythe and choreographed with the ensemble to Duke Ellington's “Tone Parallel to Harlem.

Smythe describes Ellington as "The great American composer," and a perfect match for NBE's local meets international style.

New Ballet Director, Katie Smythe, with Lil Buck (center) and dancers MK Thinnes and CWebster on the Promenade at New York State Theater after Lil Bucks world premiere with famous Parisian photographer and social advocate, JR.
  • New Ballet Director, Katie Smythe, with Lil Buck (center) and dancers MK Thinnes and CWebster on the Promenade at New York State Theater after Lil Buck's world premiere with famous Parisian photographer and social advocate, JR.

National interest in New Ballet Ensemble stems, in part, from Lil Buck's incredible success. He has toured with Madonna and Yo Yo Ma. He's shot commercials for the Gap, danced with the Cirque du Soleil's Michael Jackson tribute One, and was named in Dance Magazine as being one of 25 dancers to watch. More recently the 2014 Vail International Dance Festival named Lil Buck Artist-in-Residence.

Buck grew grew up dancing and making Jookin videos with family and friends in Orange Mound before enrolling in NBE's scholarship and professional development program. He is scheduled to appear on CBS This Morning with Wynton Marsalis Thursday, May 8.

Lil Buck isn't the only NBE dancer making a name for himself. Maxx Reed , who plays the villain Electro in the Broadway cast of Spider-Man: Turn Off the Dark is also an alum.

Even more good news arrived for NBE this week in the form of a letter from the President's Committee on Arts and the Humanities. NBE was chosen from among 360 nominees as a finalist for a 2014 National Arts and Humanities Youth Program Award, the Nation's highest honor for out-of-school arts programs that foster creativity in young people.

Kennedy Center Performances are Saturday, May 10th and Tuesday, May 13th. Tickets are available through the Kennedy Center website.

Thursday, October 24, 2013

Rolling on the River: Ballet Memphis's River Project 2 is inspirational and aspirational

Posted By on Thu, Oct 24, 2013 at 6:29 PM

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Dorothy Gunther Pugh thinks dance artists shouldn't be content telling stories. Performances can become conversations with the audience, and in a short film that screens before the curtain comes up on "River Project 2," Ballet Memphis' artistic director says it's her job to search for threads common enough to bind us together but not so common as to invite cliché. As a source of renewable inspiration, Pugh, her choreographers, and her dancers have turned to the Mississippi River.

The second installment of the company's ongoing "River Project" begins with an inspirational number, then moves into a more mystical landscape, and closes with a soulful history lesson. The tone is light throughout, and the trio of original danceworks emphasizes the company's physical strength and classical training.

"The Hurdle Runner," choreographed by Petr Zahradnicek, begins with the northern migration of African Americans. It spotlights George Coleman Poage who, like Mark Twain, was born in Hannibal, Missouri, but who moved with his parents to La Crosse, Wisconsin. In 1904, Poage became the first African American to win an Olympic medal. His event, the 200-meter hurdles, makes an easy and appropriate metaphor.

Employing huge umbrellas, inventive lighting, and a stage littered with flower petals, choreographer Julia Adam celebrates the mushrooms growing along the Mississippi. "The Devil's Fruit," doesn't conjure up images from Alice in Wonderland and nobody will be subjected to the music of Jefferson Airplane; nevertheless, it is a sweet and relentlessly sincere walk on the psychedelic side. It is also a blithe display of raw strength and easy elegance.

"River Project 2" closes with Corps de Fortitude, inspired by the sights and sounds of St. Louis. It's a joyful piece, but when Lee Taylor takes the stage to sing a soulful rendition of that city's namesake blues, the dancers nearly disappear. And taking not a thing away from Taylor's performance or that of the dancers, that may still be an actual complaint.

"River Project 2" is at Playhouse on the Square through October 27th. Balletmemphis.org

Tuesday, October 1, 2013

Be a Tree: Memphis dancers get back to nature.

Posted By on Tue, Oct 1, 2013 at 2:20 PM

A tree named Epiphany
  • A tree named Epiphany

There is a famous quotation variously credited to Martin Mull, Laurie Anderson, Steve Martin, Frank Zappa, Elvis Costello, Miles Davis, George Carlin, and a slew of other creative wits, but predating the lot of them: "Writing about music is like dancing about architecture." The line is generally invoked to discredit music critics, but it's really dancers who take the hardest hit. What's wrong with dancing about architecture? Why not respond sonically, poetically, or physically to the landscape, manmade or natural? It's a question a group of local dancers are asking as they prepare to perform "Trees: Dances and Odes for Tall Leafy Friends."

"Trees," is a series of short environmental works inspired by specific trees in Greenbelt Park on the banks of the Mississippi River. Contributing artists including Robin Salant, Anne J. Froning, Bethany Bak, Marianne Bell, Wayne M. Smith, and Sarah Ledbetter will use installation, improvisation, tap dance, storytelling, and a variety of mixed media to consider the life, shape, motion and sounds of trees.

Among the trees...
  • Among the trees...

Director Sarah Ledbetter has described “Trees” as “an irreverent love letter," although it was difficult to find much irreverence in a recent "open studio" work through of the piece. Even the most humorous work, which finds a group of tap dancing beatniks reciting sincere poetry, is infused with good old fashioned capital-R Romanticism.

"Trees" is a free event taking place Saturday, October 5 and Sunday, October 6 at 5:30 p.m. at the Mississippi Greenbelt Park on Mud Island.Attendees should park at the lot approximately 1 mile north of the Willis Ave (Harbor Town) bridge, where they will receive a program and beverages.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Project: Motion pays tribute to the Soul Burger at Earnestine & Hazel's

Posted By on Mon, Sep 30, 2013 at 5:21 PM

Id dance for a Soul Burger
  • I'd dance for a Soul Burger

ArtsMemphis is hosting a fundraiser dinner at Earnestine & Hazel's tonight (Monday, Sept 30). The event has been sold out for some time but I wanted to share a bit of rehearsal footage from a new site-specific piece developed by a trio of choreographers from Project:Motion that's on tonight's program.

Louisa Koeppel, Emily Hefley, and Rebecca Cochran have been collaborating on an homage to E&H's celebrated Soul Burger.

In the video you'll see dancers who are still working out the kinks, and my fingers play a brief cameo role (still learning how to shoot with the iPad) but I thought dance enthusiasts, Memphis boosters, and burger lovers, as well as friends and fans of the bar's recently deceased owner Russell George might like to share in this sweet tribute to a Memphis classic.

Friday, September 27, 2013

Dancing in the Street: Ballet dancers leap on asphalt while Memphis Gangsta Walkers take it to the studio

Posted By on Fri, Sep 27, 2013 at 8:52 AM

Last night's Broad Ave. Night Market was packed with things to do and vendors to visit. One of the highlights was getting to see a casual performance by the dancers of Ballet Memphis set to the tune of Green Onions.

While Ballet Memphis was taking it to the street to promote the company's world-premiere of River Project 2, opening on October 19, master Gangsta Walker and promoter Jaquency Ford was preparing for an Old School vs. New School dance battle that's being waged in the Madison Dance Studio tonight (Friday, September 27) at 7 p.m.

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