Ballet Memphis’ Fall Mix features music from Julien Baker, Unapologetic artists

By Elle Perry for The Daily Memphian

Almost 20 years ago then-choreographer-in-residence Trey McIntyre created "The Memphis Suite" for Ballet Memphis. McIntyre has now remixed that work for Ballet Memphis' Fall Mix. 

The reworked piece features music from historical Memphis musicians such as The Staple Singers, Elvis Presley and B.B. King.

Fall Mix features two other works besides McIntyre’s, the whole of which ties Memphis’ music past with Memphis’ music present.

Steven McMahon, Ballet Memphis’ associate artistic director, created his work “Unapologetic” around the ethos of the Memphis record label of the same name. The label’s creed includes discipline, fearlessness, individuality, vulnerability and community.

McMahon's work includes five, four-minute-long segments based on each of those concepts.

“I met with IMAKEMADBEATS about eight months ago and we discussed how we could collaborate,” McMahon said. “And they have made some music and we’re using music from their catalog.”

The label’s artists IMAKEMADBEATS, Cameron Bethany, Kid Maestro, C Major, PreauXX and Aaron James will perform at half of the seven Fall Mix performances. The performances will be announced at showtime.

Choreographer Alia Kache, a Chattanooga-native and former Ailey II dancer, set her work “Unrest” to the music of acclaimed singer-songwriter Julien Baker, a Memphis-native. It addresses the country’s climate following the 2016 election.

"'Unrest' is an intricate tapestry of contemporary dance and emotion," Kache said. "After the 2016 election I felt betrayed, like someone had pulled a rug from beneath me. Maybe my reaction was a bit dramatic, but I truly felt that my way of life was under attack."

Kache and McMahon attended The (Alvin) Ailey School together in New York City.  

As a native Tennessean, Kache said celebrating the music of her home state fills her with pride.

"The diversity of the program is matched by the diversity of the company," she added. "I feel like it's a great representation of Memphis."

Fall Mix performances take place at Ballet Memphis in Overton Square beginning Friday, Oct. 26. The last performance is scheduled for 2 p.m. Sunday, Nov. 4. The Thursday, Nov. 1, performance includes a spark! discussion before the show begins about the state of Memphis arts as the city approaches its 2019 bicentennial.

Tickets are $15 for matinee shows; $25 for evening shows.

“I think for most people music is an access point to a lot of things,” McMahon said. “And, when people come and see this, I know that they will be surprised. It’s a big statement to make, but I’m pretty confident to say that when you say ballet, there’s an expectation about what that is, and it is ballet, but maybe not the way that you think it is.”