Memphis dancers are awesome.
We’re blessed to have multiple outstanding professional dance companies here: Collage Dance Collective, New Ballet Ensemble, Tennessee Ballet Theater, and Ballet Memphis. A bunch of incredibly gifted artists dance for those companies and I’m often too intimidated to hold conversations with them, so I just fangirl from a distance and do things like make up a local dance Hall of Fame in my head.
Some former Ballet Memphis dancers reside in my imaginary Hall of Fame. There’s Stephanie Mei Hom who embodied joie de vivre every time she hit the stage. There’s the gravity-defying and dazzling Kendall Britt. And (lawd) there’s Travis Bradley—masterful and magnetic.
A new “jersey” will soon hang in my personal Hall of Fame. Crystal Brothers, who has danced for Ballet Memphis for 23 years, has announced that she’ll be retiring at the end of the season.
Crystal is a native of Yuma, Arizona who joined Ballet Memphis in 1996 after dancing with Boston Ballet II. Among her lead roles with Ballet Memphis are Sugar Plum Fairy in Nutcracker, Juliet in Romeo and Juliet, Glinda and the Wicked Witch in Wizard of Oz, Odette/Odile in Swan Lake, and Titania in Midsummer Night’s Dream, and she has had many roles created for her in mixed repertory ballets. You can read her bio here.
Crystal has been a consistent critical and audience favorite throughout her career here. To me, what makes her so wonderful to watch, aside from her technical skill, is the emotion she pours into every piece. She uses everything at her disposal to tell the story. You will travel with her. You don’t have a choice. It all works so well, it’s as if she was created to be a ballerina.
If you’ve not seen her perform, or even if you have, heads up: there are only a few productions left in the season and one of them is this weekend.
Ballet Memphis will present the classic, Giselle, at The Orpheum April 12–14. Giselle, by the way, is lauded as one of the top 3 ballets you should see, right up there with Swan Lake and Romeo and Juliet. Virginia Pilgrim Ramey and Brandon Ramey will dance the leads of Giselle and Albrecht. Crystal Brothers will dance the role of Myrtha, queen of the Wilis (the spectral virginal brides who dance ne’er-do-well men to their deaths).
Given her many years of sharing her talent with the city, we asked for some thoughts on her journey:
I’m incredibly grateful to Ballet Memphis for providing a safe space to explore my creativity. For 23 years, I’ve collaborated with phenomenal artists, performed around the world, and called Memphis my home. I have so many fond memories of characters I’ve portrayed, special moments both onstage and in the rehearsal studio with dear friends, and a deep love and respect for my art form. I’m excited to perform Myrtha in Giselle and enjoy my last production with Ballet Memphis in the beautiful Orpheum Theatre. With tears in my eyes and love in my heart, I will forever be grateful for my many wonderful experiences in the 901!
In early May, Crystal will reprise a favorite role of hers for the fourth and final time. She’ll dance Titania when the company performs Midsummer Night’s Dream at GPAC. Her absolute last performance with the company will be at Rewind which will be May 10-11 at Ballet Memphis. You can learn more here.
Don’t worry, she’s not leaving Memphis. Post-retirement plans include training as a licensed massage therapist (she has already started that process), continuing her work with the Pilates Centre of Ballet Memphis and in the Ballet Memphis School where she teaches Adult Ballet, as well as pursuing her interest in healthy living and essential oils.