Delta Switching 

"The River Project" at Playhouse on the Square

Avulsion. No matter how it's applied, the word means ripping something apart. In the specific case of "The Second Line," choreographer Julia Adam's multifaceted contribution to The River Project for Ballet Memphis, avulsion is used in its geological sense and refers to the tearing apart of a river channel and the sudden creation of a new one. It's a process sometimes known as delta switching.

"I'm Canadian," Adam says, setting up a question. "How do you make a piece about a place that you don't know?" First, she discovered that Canadian connection: Acadian fiddle music. "That got my blood in it," she says.

"The Second Line" is one of three pieces in The River Project, a dance concert that also includes new work by Steven McMahon and Matthew Neenan. Like Adam's, McMahon's and Neenan's works are a reflection of life along a unique stretch of the Mississippi River basin.

Adam has chosen the home stretch, where the Mississippi flows into the Gulf of Mexico. In addition to geological processes, her work is inspired by the sights and sounds of New Orleans, Creole culture, costumes, Acadian music, jazz, and French-American baroque music.

"I would describe the piece as a mosaic," she says, considering the cultural gumbo of New Orleans. "We are definitely walking through time."

Dorothy Gunther Pugh hopes to do some delta switching of her own. The founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis imagines Memphis as a crossroads: an American center in ways that transcend geography. She describes The River Project as a "launching point" for Memphis' role as "a creative center of American dance."

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