SOUL | Ballet Memphis

April 22-23, 2022

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Welcome to Crosstown

Now, THIS one is going to be fun! We close out Season 35 at Crosstown Theater with a show that celebrates the unique Memphis sound. The river, heat, and humidity make the perfect environment to create our music with the right amount of SOUL. You can’t help but dance.

We will premiere three works by women choreographers, including a new piece from Chanel DaSilva. Performed with music from the Stax Music Academy Alumni Band, this show will get you moving in your seats.

Watch the sizzle reel

I felt the inspiration to move, and choreographic movement bubbled up in my spirit right away.
Chanel DaSilva, Heathen Hearts choreographer


Current rehearsal director and former company artist, Julie Niekrasz, will present In Search Of. The work is inspired by the 2021 documentary Summer of Soul which chronicles the 1969 Harlem Cultural Festival. For a period historically marked by civil and political unrest, a profound celebration of culture and music unified hundreds of thousands of people in a public park in Harlem. She aims to show feelings of the joy, hope, and struggle in search of human connection through art.

In Search Of contains songs from Ruby Johnson and Leela James, women from two different eras of soul music. Niekrasz says “There is a rawness and power that is tangible in both of their voices. They are singing from an unapologetically human place – an imperceptible beauty that is revealed from their authentic selves. They sing because they simply have to. What if we all approached our life and our work living that same truth?”

Niekrasz wants the audience to join in the exploration of beauty, trust, uncertainty, and the fierceness to love wholeheartedly.

To read Julie's full Choreographer Q&A, click here.

Company Artist Emilia Sandoval choreographs her first major piece for Ballet Memphis, In Mind’s Eye. This work considers the perspective of the viewers and explores the concept of how experiences and preferences influence the way something affects them as individuals. In this case, Sandoval chooses the soulful music from KIRBY and Valerie June to inspire movement from the overactive imaginations of different characters.

Sandoval says, “A mind's eye can go in different directions depending on who the listener is, so I want to play with the idea of entering a few of the character's visions.”

As with many art forms, much in music is left to interpretation, and the characters have various reactions to what they are hearing and how it moves them. Consider what is happening in the music to how it corresponds with the action on stage, and how it makes you feel as part of the audience. Music notoriously can intensify emotions, but how much of that is dependent on the listener?

To read Emilia's full Choreographer Q&A, click here.

Award-winning choreographer Chanel DaSilva has joined Ballet Memphis from NYC for the world premiere of her new piece. A multi-faceted artist, she wanted songs that were of equal weight to the choreography to tell a uniquely Memphis story. DaSilva researched Memphis music to find what she thought synthesized all of the best parts of Memphis music - Blues, R&B, Funk, Pop & Gospel – to land on the group Southern Avenue. “I felt the inspiration to move, and choreographic movement bubbled up in my spirit right away,” she said. “I knew that being able to craft this work with the music of Southern Avenue as the soundtrack was the only way forward with this project.”

In addition to being captivated by Southern Avenue’s soulful sound, DaSilva also visited the Stax Museum and formed a cosmic bond with the late Estelle Axton (one of the founding members who put the “Ax” in Stax - click to hear her recording with Rhodes College that is played in part during the piece). A visionary at the time, Axton was not only a woman in the male-dominated field of record producing, she also backed black musicians and built her studio in a black neighborhood to foster trust and respect with her artists. She took an active role in talent selection and undoubtedly influenced the paths of Otis Redding, Rufus Thomas, Isaac Hayes, and others. DaSilva recognized the love, ambition, resiliency, and sacrifice that Estelle poured into Stax Records, and channeled that into her own work for SOUL.

For more information about Chanel DaSilva, click here.

To watch Chanel's interview with WYXR, click here.