Tuesday, May 7, 2019

Steven McMahon Named Artistic Director Of Ballet Memphis

Posted By on Tue, May 7, 2019 at 6:44 PM

Steven McMahon and Dorothy Gunther Pugh at grand opening of new Ballet Memphis headquarters. - MICHAEL DONAHUE
  • Michael Donahue
  • Steven McMahon and Dorothy Gunther Pugh at grand opening of new Ballet Memphis headquarters.
“I long ago recognized that I needed to groom the right person to guard what we have built and what we value at Ballet Memphis,” Ballet Memphis's founding CEO Dorothy Gunther Pugh was quoted as saying in a prepared statement about the dancer and choreographer who will succeed her as artistic director. The person in question is Ballet Memphis's 34-year-old Associate Artistic Director Steven McMahon.

“Steven has come up through this organization and grown as a dancer and dance-maker; he’s the best choice as well as the right choice," Pugh concluded.

McMahon, who has choreographed more than 30 works for Ballet Memphis including, favorites like The Wizard of Oz, and Peter Pan, officially assumes his new position July 1st. Pugh will continue her work at Ballet Memphis as CEO.

Video: McMahon discussed choreographing a past production of Romeo & Juliet for Ballet Memphis:

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Tuesday, October 30, 2018

Mixology: Ballet Memphis gets Unapologetic

Posted By on Tue, Oct 30, 2018 at 12:24 PM

If you savor local flavor, Memphis music and musicians are lovingly entwined with the dance works in Ballet Memphis’ Fall Mix that continues through this weekend.

Every October, Ballet Memphis presents a series of new, or newish, works that often give the young dancers and sometimes new choreographers a chance to do contemporary and sometimes experimental movement. Steven McMahon, the company’s associate artistic director, says Fall Mix re-launches The Memphis Project, an off-and-on series that puts the focus on the creative and cultural soul of the city.

The effort is a triumph of programming and performance. The opening work is something of an epic oldie, Trey Mcintyre’s “Memphis Suite,” reworked from its debut 20 years ago. The dances are song-length short stories soaked in Memphis sauce and with a soundtrack of classic tunes and local performers starting with Elvis, and moving through Ike Turner, Al Green, The Staples Singers, Roscoe Gordon, Rufus Thomas, B.B. King, Pat Hare, and John Lee Hooker.

The next piece by dynamo Alia Kache is “Unrest,” and is, fittingly, overlaid by the music of Memphis singer/songwriter Julien Baker from her “Turn Out the Lights” album. Baker is a poet of unrest and Kache’s choreography, dark and constrained at first, finds a fascinating deeper expression throughout.

McMahon choreographed the final piece, “Unapologetic,” in collaboration with Unapologetic LLC, the innovative record label and brand that travels the sonic edge while treasuring enough of the traditional to keep you guessing. Headed by record producer IMAKEMADBEATS, the group — Cameron Bethany, Kid Maestro, C Major, PreauXX, and Aaron James — is at the back of the stage, interacting with the dancers. The ballet, like the music, endeavors to take some risks and give the spirit of Memphis some complex, energizing expression.

Fall Mix is a thrilling program grounded in Memphis history and Memphis today, and celebrating the bounty of creativity in the city.

It's performed at Ballet Memphis, 2144 Madison. Showtimes are 8 p.m. Nov. 1 (with a spark discussion beforehand), 8 p.m. Nov. 2, 8 p.m. Nov. 3, and 2 p.m. Nov. 4. Tickets are $25 evenings / $15 matinees. Go to or call 901-737-7322.

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Friday, February 2, 2018

Alvin Ailey: Kicking Off Black History Month with the Legendary NY Dance Company

Posted By on Fri, Feb 2, 2018 at 11:45 AM

Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations. - PAUL KOLNIK
  • Paul Kolnik
  • Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater perform Revelations.
Tonight and tomorrow, the Orpheum will host the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, in an especially appropriate performance for this year's Black History Month. Ailey began the company in 1958, and was one of the first to feature jazz, “Negro spirituals,” and dancers from diverse cultures. Though Ailey himself passed away in 1989, that spirit of diversity lives on. And, in harmony with the MLK50 events taking place in Memphis, the Saturday matinee will feature a new work that evokes Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. I chatted with company member and rehearsal director Matthew Rushing, to get a better sense of what the company will bring to this show.

Memphis Flyer: How would you describe the new work based on the work of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr.?

Matthew Rushing: The ballet is called r-Evolution, Dream and it's based around Dr. King's speeches. One speech that really rings true to me is “The drum major instinct,” and what I feel was so creative and unique about this work is that Ms. Boykin wasn't able to get the original speeches, so she had to become more creative. One of the ways that she prepared the piece was to write her own material that was inspired by the speeches she had been studying in order to prepare this ballet. She also worked with Leslie Odom, Jr. to do the recording that you'll hear, as the voice that takes you through the whole piece, the narrator of the whole piece. That's Leslie Odom, Jr., who was formerly with Hamilton.

Popular quotes by other people that Dr. King used will be included in the piece, as well as Hope Boykins' original material. All of these things speak of and reflect Dr. King's spirit. One thing that Hope talks about is the class system —how there's this division of the haves and the have-nots. I love that she tackled the topic because, in the midst of all that's going on and all this talk about Dr. King and his messages, that's something that's not talked about as much.

And I think it's a privilege to be able to be a part of it. I got a chance to do some research on my own. I listened to Dr. King's speeches, and listened to the cadence and the spirit behind it, the dynamics. And I actually tried to carry the those things within the steps that Hope choreographed for me. It's a delightful opportunity. Each time I do the piece I hear something different, I feel something different, I connect with a different member of the company. It's a very strong, relevant, important piece

I noticed it features specially commissioned music by Ali Jackson, Jr.

Yes, of Jazz at Lincoln Center. That's another great addition to the piece because you're using something that is so traditional. Something that has history, something that has weight, and something that's directly related to African-American history, as well as just general American history. So all those elements just come together well.
I know Jackson's a drummer — does that come through in the music? Is it very percussive or groove oriented?

Well, he's a drummer, but he's also composer, and what he composed was this very wide range of music. One of my favorite moments is the opening solo that I have, and instead of using a speech from Dr. King, Hope gave Ali one of the speeches to listen to. And he would listen to the cadence in Dr. Kings voice and then he came up with a score based upon his cadence.

Looking over the program, it looks like the other selections for the evening shows are very relevant to Black History Month and the MLK50 commemoration, especially Members Don't Get Weary, set to the music of John Coltrane.

Once again, incredible elements that we are working with. Jamar Roberts, who is a longtime leading company member, did incredible research, based on getting in to the music of Coletrane. Jamar loves jazz and spent a long amount of time just meditating on Coltrane's music. He would write based upon what he received from the music. It was almost like a play — he wrote out scenes and the structure, the environment, what are the relationships between the dancers that are in each section. He wrote all of this out based on what he got out of the music, and that was almost like this storyboard to choreograph the piece.

In the first section he refers to the Negro spirituals, showing the ancestors, the people who went before us, the people who were involved in the civil rights movement and fought those fights for us so that we can be who we are now. But then the second section shows the current version of that same fight. It's a newer generation, but in a sense the fight is still not over and we still must endure those hardships and those fights. They may be packaged differently, but the struggle in the sense is the same.

So much of Coltrane's music is about reinvention, taking basic elements and morphing them, yet with the same spirit. I was surprised, given the themes of this performance, that the piece didn't include “Alabama,” which of course everyone considers Coltrane's most engaged piece with the civil rights movement. What are your thoughts on the two pieces that you do use for that performance, “Dear Lord” and “Olé”?

As I said, Jamar had a very clear story that he wanted to tell. So for a choreographer, it's important to have an ebb and flow. There has to be a very seamless flow, not only within the steps but also within the structure of the piece. So I think he just went to the song that spoke to him the most, and you'll see what I mean when you see the ballet.

I've never seen anyone capture Coltrane's musicality like Jamar. It's incredible. You can tell he studied the music deeply. Not only do you hear the music when you see the ballet, you see the music.

I guess you're no stranger to choreography based on classic jazz.

Yes, I choreographed a piece based on the Harlem Renaissance and within that ballet I had many different pieces by Fats Waller, Ellington, Count Basie, and others. I even had work from Langston Hughes — it was just a whole collection from that time. That piece was called Uptown. Doing that piece was my introduction to the brilliance of jazz. Before I had danced in a lot of Mr. Ailey's work set to jazz music, specifically Ellington music, and I appreciated it. But when I had to do the research for Uptown, that's when I started to fall in love with it. And it's amazing to see that tradition being carried in Hope's work and now in Jamar's work, since both are using jazz music.

I suppose that's one great pillar of the Ailey company because he was one of the first, if not the first, to really incorporate jazz into his choreography for modern dance.

I would say not the first, but I definitely feel that he is one who put it on the map. His works were so iconic that I feel it was the official introduction of the possibilities of modern dance and jazz. There are other choreographers, like Donald McKayle, who also choreographed to jazz. But Mr. Ailey, I feel, because his work has such an accessibility to it, just captured audiences around the world. And therefore he became that icon, that person that people look to as far as seeing what's new, what's next, and I think that's probably how we may see him — as one of the first.

How does Ailey's earlier work, Revelations, that you're performing, resonate with you in this century?

It's many things. First, it's genius. It's classic, and when I refer to something being classic, I also see it as being timeless. It still speaks to all different generations and it speaks to different cultures. And the interesting thing about it is that it has a very specific message. It talks about spirituality. It's choreographed to Negro spirituals, which talk about faith, the Christian faith, the Baptist faith. But for some reason there's a universality to it: audiences around the world who may not know anything about Christianity, the Baptist religion, or even Jesus. As with the piece, “Fix Me, Jesus,” which has all these references to terms that we have here in our faith, but I don't feel that people are excluded when they watch the ballet. It's a very open-ended ballet that speaks to what I always say: everybody has a spirit. We may have different moral beliefs or faiths, but I feel everybody has a heart.

So I feel Revelations speaks to your heart, it speaks to your spirit. We have all experienced hardships, we have all experienced the need for perseverance, and we've also all experienced some kind of victory, and how good that victory feels. And Revelations captures those topics. It shows you how how heavy oppression can be, it shows you the idea of going to the water to be purged and washed of your sins, and that's parallel to perseverance, trying to hang onto your faith and live. Even though we've been through the worst of the worst, we are still alive and celebrating what we have, and I think those are very universal topics.

So among all these different pieces you're performing, there's this Twyla Tharp piece, “The Golden Section,” from The Catherine Wheel, featuring music by David Byrne. Just on paper, it strikes me that the David Byrne score is quite a contrast with the jazz and spirituals in the show. How do you feel about that contrast?

Well it's exactly that. In programming, sometimes we will have programs that are theme-based and they're very specific from beginning to end, and sometimes the program is put together in a way that shows versatility within the different dance styles. Sometimes our programs are based upon just the music styles. Maybe the artistic directors feel a city has not seen works by a certain choreographer, or if the show has very heavy pieces, we need one piece just to brighten up the entire evening. There's just so many different things that go into the planning of the program. I don't think it's necessarily like “The Golden Section” was programmed to fit in the context of the other subject matter, but it's possibly there to broaden the audience's view of dance, and maybe even just to bring balance to the evening.

I've read the company last performed the piece in 2006, so this is a bit of a revival. Is that kind of cooperation between companies common?

Since we are a repertory company, we often run across those instances where a choreographer is connected to a specific company. We have a new work called Shelter and it was originally done by the Urban Bush Women. The Ailey company was the first company to do it, outside of the Urban Bush Women. So there are many instances where we dance works from specific choreographers associated with other companies. I think that's something that the directors aim to do, to take these excellent works and give the Ailey dancers a chance to be challenged. And also bring in these works that may not have been seen by the Ailey audiences and give them a chance to see different types of dance.

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Thursday, March 2, 2017

Rapid Response: Resisting with the Up in Arms Dance Collective

Posted By on Thu, Mar 2, 2017 at 2:35 PM

"Resist." It's a word we're hearing a lot these days. Many people are resisting. Many things are being resisted. This weekend members of the Up in Arms Collective are taking their, "broken, angry, hopeful, confused, empathetic,truthful, playful, and devilish hearts... and making art." So says dancer, choreographer Louisa  Koeppel, inviting Memphis to join the, "MOVEment." And also to help raise funds for Planned Parenthood, the Mid South Peace and Justice, and the ACLU. RESPONSE at Crosstown Arts March 3-5 at 7PM

Dancer Rebecca Rose Cochran takes it further, describing the RESPONSE show as, "A reaction to our current political landscape. This show was born out of grief. Out of shock. Out of anger. Out of an urge to 'get to work.'

"We had a desire to respond," she says. "And RESPOND we shall."

20 Memphis dance artists are performing in rotation at Crosstown Arts this weekend. There's a different lineup every night.

Here are some rehearsal shots.

The lineup
Sheri Bancroft, Jennifer Hall, Erin D.H. Williams - Fri/Sat
Bethany Bak - Fri/Sat
Travis Bradley - Sat/Sun
Burton Bridges - Sat/Sun
Rebecca Cochran - Fri/Sun
Emily Hefley - Fri/Sat
Louisa Koeppel - Fri/Sat
Sarah Ledbetter - Fri/Sat
Kristen Lucas - Sat/Sun
Jill Guyton Nee - Fri/Sun
Wayne Smith - Fri/Sun
Lauren Stallings - Fri/Sun

Films by N'seeka Macpherson and Robin Sanders will be shown all evenings. For additional information, here's the Facebook invite.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Blood & Ballet: Dance Two Ways

Posted By on Sun, Feb 19, 2017 at 6:00 PM

Uri Sands
  • Uri Sands

Ballet Memphis opens Places Beyond at Playhouse on the Square this weekend. The anthology of new work is being described as, "A journey from places of the heart to places far out of reach." Places showcases new work from award-winning choreographers Uri Sands, Mark Godden and Associate Artistic Director Steven McMahon.

Next week on Beale Street GC Dance Academy and G Nation presents Blood on the Dance Floor 5 at The Hard Rock Cafe.

Don't let the title of the event fool you. Although things can get pretty intense out on the floor sometimes, there's nothing more chill than an old school Memphis dance battle.

Memphis has its own brand of competitive urban dance, and there's not much better than watching the best of the best go toe to toe. 

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


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


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.


Really well.


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

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.

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.

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