Daily Memphian Covers Ballet Memphis' Season 37!

Contributor Elle Perry at Daily Memphian attended our Open House on August 19 and was inspired to pen a piece about Ballet Memphis and our ambitious Season 37! Read a pdf of the original article, or read the text pasted below.

Thanks so much for recognizing and including us, Elle!

Ballet Memphis to refresh ‘Nutcracker,’ pay tribute to Americana music

By Elle Perry, Daily Memphian

Published: September 14, 2023 12:07 PM CT

As part of its 37th season, Ballet Memphis is “refreshing” its “Nutcracker” ballet production for the first time in decades.

Artistic director Steven McMahon stressed that the production isn’t brand new. But audiences can expect new elements in the company’s latest version of the beloved tale.

“We are investing in … new sets, costumes, new choreography, but everything will still have the same music, energy that people have come to love and expect,” McMahon said.

“We understand the importance of that tradition to our ticket buyers and our community. And so we want to give that experience to everyone, every time,” said Gretchen Wollert McLennon, Ballet Memphis’ CEO and president.

For the first time, two of the largest US ballet companies are in Memphis

Ballet Memphis will perform “The Nutcracker” at the Orpheum Theatre across two weekends — Saturday, Dec. 9 and Sunday, Dec. 10 and Friday, Dec. 15 through Sunday, Dec. 17.

“When you’re dealing with a story that’s been in existence for over 120 years, there are probably things that you can revisit and take a different look at while still once again holding to the story that everyone embraces and knows,” Wollert McLennon said.

“The Nutcracker” is part of the season, which kicks off Friday, Oct. 13, with “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” at Ballet Memphis, 2144 Madison Ave.

“Dreams” is the season’s overall theme.

“Ballet has a long history of dreams and thinking about dreams,” McMahon said. “Young dancers dream about being a ballerina, about being a swan or a prince. … And the stage itself is where a choreographer’s dreams are realized.”

Ballet Memphis’ “Midsummer” production is based on the Shakespeare play and features choreography by Mark Godden.

“Mark is really theatrical and (has) a lot of humor, so (he) crafted the story in a very clear and concise way that just makes it accessible, really charming,” McMahon said.“...You’re getting excellent, well-constructed dance, choreography — the steps are excellent. And then you’re getting this theatricality that it lives under. And then you’re getting something that is quite sensitive and has a great story that touches on all the best parts of (the play). “

Memphis choreographer fuses country music with modern dance

“In Dreams,” which Trey McIntyre choreographed as a separate piece for Balle tMemphis, is also part of the “Midsummer” production. It has dance set to Roy Orbison’s music.

“It uses ballet in a way that you’re like, ‘Oh, I didn’t know ballet could look like that,” McMahon said. “And it’s not reductive to the sound. It’s not cheesy. … It’s not trying to interpret the music. … It does interpret the music … (but) in a sophisticated way.”

Ballet Memphis’ “Winter Mix,” a mixed repertoire show, will be held Friday, Feb. 23 through Sunday, Feb. 25 at Playhouse on the Square, 66 Cooper St.

It includes a new work that choreographer Durante Verzola created for Ballet Memphis, as well as Matthew Neenan’s “Party of the Year,” which is set to music by B.B. King, Ray Charles, Nat King Cole and Joni Mitchell.

“American Roots” plays tribute to Americana music. It includes new works by Alia Kache of Alvin Ailey Dance Theater, and Ballet Memphis’ Julie Niekrasz and Brandon Ramey choreographed it. The show also features a live house band.

“Memphis and Memphis music has always been a muse for us and how we are building our repertoire and choreography,” Wollert McLennon said. “And when we invite people from outside of Memphis, we oftentimes want them to help share that Memphis dance story.”

Elle Perry

A native Memphian, Elle Perry has earned graduate degrees from the University of Memphis and Maryland Institute College of Art. She’s written for publications including the Memphis Business Journal, Memphis Flyer and High Ground News, and previously served as coordinator of The Teen Appeal.