Ballet Memphis will launch its 27th mainstage season by celebrating
the world premiere of three new ballets created on the company and influenced
by the Mississippi River. River Project
2 is a mixed-rep show featuring works
by Julia Adam, Petr Zahradnícek, and Ballet Memphis company member Julie Marie
Project 2 will run at Playhouse
on the Square, 66 South Cooper, from October 19-27. Tickets are $10-$72 and
group rates are available.
Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic
director of Ballet Memphis, wanted to create a new series of works–the first
long-term series created on a single theme since the company’s lauded Memphis Project–that reflect the
cultural migratory history and flow along the Mississippi River. The first
chapter in the multi-season River Project
premiered in October 2012. The New York
Times called it “… one of the most beguiling new American ballets of our
day … all lyricism and complexity, it suggests the growth of a culture.”
“We have this amazing waterway that is
metaphorically one of nation’s most influential points for life, culture and
creativity,” said Pugh. “It’s an artery for it; a barrier for it; even
transportation for it.
“But it concerns me that with a concentration of
wealth and power along our coasts, a great deal of American culture from
‘flyover’ cities, such as Memphis, is ignored if we don’t tell the story
She handpicked these three choreographers and
charged them with researching life along the Mississippi to create three new
works that carry on Ballet Memphis’ tradition of storytelling.
Fruit by Julia Adam is the
second piece Adam has choreographed for the River
Project series, following last season’s Second
Line. In this new work, Adam explores the flora and fauna along the river,
specifically the vast and intricate underground network of mushrooms. Adam
created a work inspired by breathtaking botanical photos of the fungi and the
sheltering quality they possess. Artist Stephanie Crosby created original
botanical paintings that will be projected throughout the piece.
de Fortitude by Julie Marie
Niekrasz is her first mainstage piece for Ballet Memphis. The piece focuses on
the unsung heroes of American westward expansion: The women who moved their
lives and their families in the 1800s. Niekrasz wanted to
show a woman's emotional and physical strength, inspired by Sacagawea as
well as the women pioneers; a quiet, nurturing strength, yet so full of
will and love. She also wanted to show how Native Americans helped guide us
through this treacherous land, and the ironic turn around of betraying that
trust later on in history.Featuring live vocal performance by Memphis-based
singer Lee Taylor.
Hurdle Runner by Petr Zahradnícek is based on the life story of George Coleman Poage, born in
Hannibal, Mo. before moving with his family to La Crosse, Wis. There, he became
the first African American to graduate from the local high school, and in 1903
graduated from University of Wisconsin. He also was the first black athlete to
run for the University of Wisconsin, specializing in short sprints and hurdles.
In 1904, he competed in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and became the first
African American to win an Olympic medal after earning a bronze in the
200-meter hurdles. In the piece, Zahradnícek uses the river as a metaphor of a highway moving
toward improvement, as Poage overcame hurdles in society that were much greater
than the ones he found on the track.
October 19-27, 2013
Playhouse on the Square
66 South Cooper
Tickets: $10, $22, $43, $72
October 19: 8 pm
October 20: 2 pm
October 24: 8 pm
October 25: 8 pm
October 26: 8 pm
October 27: 2 pm
Project 2 is made possible by
the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead
funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon
Foundation with additional funding through FedEx, AutoZone, ArtsMemphis and
Tennessee Arts Commission.
Project Symposium, Thursday,
October 3, 5 to 8 pm, Hardie Auditorium at Rhodes College. Free. Panel
discussions on the history of earthquakes in the region and the history of
music as well as a mini-performance from River
Project 2. Reception from 5 to 5:30 pm; event begins after.
of the River, Friday, October 4,
6 to 9 pm, Crosstown Arts, 430 N. Cleveland. Free, all ages. From traditional
folk and swampy soul sounds to blues and jazz, enjoy a musical sampler of the
South. Featuring the Memphis Jug Band, Earlice Taylor and Marcella and Her
Ballet Memphis www.balletmemphis.org.
In its 27th season, Ballet Memphis serves as a creative resource to the nation
as a maker and interpreter of the South’s cultural legacy through its
innovative neoclassical and contemporary repertoire, as well as production and
training of the highest caliber. Founded by Dorothy Gunther Pugh in 1986,
Ballet Memphis employs 19 professional dancers with a $4.3 million operating
budget and has performed around the world.
The combined programs of Ballet Memphis–dance company, ballet school,
educational enrichment and Pilates Centre–serve 80,000 people each year.