There is something magical about watching ballet live. And after a long hiatus due to the pandemic, we are thrilled to spread the news about the return to live performances at Ballet Memphis starting October 23rd!
But before diving into the details of this exciting news, let’s take a few steps back to learn a bit about the history of Ballet Memphis.
Founded in 1986 with the mission to “create a ballet company that is reflective of [the Memphis] community and the nation by creating, presenting and teaching ballet in a way that celebrates the human spirit,” Ballet Memphis has developed into a diverse Company with an “acclaimed original repertoire that speaks of the cultural significance of the area.”
This repertoire has traveled beyond the city of Memphis, wowing audiences at The Joyce Theater in New York City and the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C. (just to drop a couple of particularly impressive names).
Ballet Memphis is unique in that it’s not only a performing arts center.
It’s also a school, offering “Discover Dance” classes for ages 3-5, “Discover Ballet” for ages 6-15, classical ballet classes for ages 6-18, as well as beginner through advanced ballet and tap classes for adults.
Not only that, Ballet Memphis boasts its own in-house pilates and fitness studio, offering gentle movement classes for Parkinson’s patients, their caregivers, and any adult desiring to strengthen and maintain their balance and mobility. Ballet Memphis also invites pilates instructors, trainers, and physical therapists to join their Continuing Education Courses, with workshops and programming focusing on areas such as Fundamentals, Post-rehab, Active Aging, Sport and Athletic Coaching, and more. Plus, many of their workshops are trauma-sensitive and ACE (Adverse Childhood Experiences) approved.
Pretty cool, right? The performances themselves are worth your time and money, but it certainly enhances the experience to know that when you attend a show at Ballet Memphis, you’re supporting a rich, multi-faceted, community-based organization that celebrates not only the arts but also ongoing learning, holistic health and wellness, and accessibility to people of all backgrounds, abilities, and goals.
So, about those performances that are finally back: starting October 23 , you can attend a “captivating mixed-rep bill” entitled “In This Moment” in the Ballet Memphis Fly Studio.
Award-winning choreographer Gabrielle Lamb will open the evening with her piece, “Elapse.”
The title reflects Gabrielle’s fascination with time and her excitement about how ever-evolving technologies are able to echo and imitate the “elegance and economy” of nature. We’re captivated already! Especially after the bizarre pandemic experience of time that felt both slowed down and sped up, you won’t want to miss Gabrielle Lamb’s “beautiful exploration of a space where every minute counts.” It sounds to us like the sort of “take your breath away” performance that will leave you contemplating life and time and the human experience on the car ride home—and, in all likelihood, for days and weeks to come.
Following “Elapse” is the brand new work of Artistic Director, Steven McMahon, who joined Ballet Memphis as a dancer in 2004 and now choreographs original pieces for the stage. Hear his heart for both dance and choreography:
“I have always loved making dances because the possibilities are endless. Dance can say things about our humanity that are often difficult to communicate with words. I like to think of myself as a dance-maker because I only use dance as my tool, and many things can be choreographed … dance-makers need to be curious and willing to go on a collaborative journey with the dancers they are working with. As a dancer, you can easily forget that a choreographer is holding a big picture in their head that they are trying to bring into the world. I’m still learning to be patient with my ideas and giving them time to develop before I give up on them.”
His ideas-turned-creations are numerous, and his original works have been performed in studios all across the world. In “Thoughtforms,” McMahon’s new piece featured in In This Moment, dancers soar and invite audience members to explore the crossroads of creativity and personal experience.
Making things even more interesting, McMahon’s process with “Thoughtforms” was different than his typical one. Rather than starting with a clear concept or theme and then building a dance around it, this time, he “found a glorious piece of music by classical composer Anna Clyne that was layered and powerful.” Rather than finding music that complemented a concept, McMahon was moved by the music first, and then went on to shape the dance, and all the concepts that lived within and emerged out of the dance, around the music.
“It sounds a lot like I’ve been feeling for the past two years,” McMahon shared. “The choreography is slightly left of classical, and there is an oddness to it that keeps it interesting. It has been challenging to put words to—it feels like something a bit ambivalent or undefined—and I’m ok with being viewed that way.”
“I have always loved making dances because the possibilities are endless. Dance can say things about our humanity that are often difficult to communicate with words.” – Steven McMahon
A lot has felt “ambivalent and undefined” the past year and a half, but McMahon has found plenty of silver linings at Ballet Memphis throughout the pandemic.
“Dancers are problem solvers by nature,” he noted. “We learned many valuable lessons during this pandemic. We know how to shift and adapt in ways that we would have previously thought impossible; we have learned that our work can live outside of the traditional theatrical setting … These new ways of producing and viewing dance have opened us to a whole new world of possibilities that we are excited to keep exploring. Our President and CEO, Gretchen Wollert McLennon, likes to use the phrase, ‘When nothing is certain, anything is possible.’ I hope we keep this mentality even when COVID is behind us.”
Finally, the evening will conclude with Mariana Oliveira’s fresh take on “Pagliacci,” an Italian opera dating back to 1892 consisting of a prologue and two acts. “Pagliacci” tells the story of the jealous leader of an acting troupe, his wife, and her lover. Oliveira’s retelling is set to the music from the classic 1928 film, The Circus. Described as “witty and charming” (and sure to be dramatic), you can count on this piece to end the night on a high note.
It is the hope of the studio, and all its dancers and contributing choreographers, that this “return to live performances will help soothe some of the anxiety of the last two years and offer some respite and joy for a few hours.”
Whether you’re a Friday or Saturday evening sort of person, or more of a Sunday matinee viewer, you’ll want to carve out some time to experience the respite and joy this show is sure to offer. “This show is appealing on so many levels,” McMahon remarks. “It has interesting music, bold lighting, exceptional dancing. It is sophisticated and elegant; it has all the ingredients of a great show. So come and live in these worlds with us for a few hours, let yourself be carried away by our extraordinary dancers, and feel inspired.”