by Joseph E. Morgan
On June 1–3, 2017, the Nashville Ballet closed its season with a performance in its experimental series Emergence. The performance presented three new and extremely diverse choreographies that reflected the uniqueness of the Nashville music scene and exemplified the series’ purpose, which is to curate “different genres of movement and sound that can challenge how we think about ballet.”
The evening opened with the four-movement work Test Drive, choreography by Susan Shields and music written and performed by Nashville-based singer Jonny P, whose authentic soul compositions channeled Otis Redding. The dances of all four movements were remarkable and reflected an ideal synthesis of popular dance with classical expression. Kayla Rowser, who we know from her performance in Layla & the Majnun last year, brought the same pathos and charisma to her part in the first movement’s “Good to You.” Katie Eliason and Bridge Taylor’s entwined dance in “Book” was remarkable as well.
In Superstitions, Jennifer Archibald’s choreography brought Cristina Spinei’s delicate polyphony to life, abstracting the “specifically Southern Italian (Sicilian and Calabrese) superstitions” that inspired Spinei in this composition.The last piece, sketchbook of one reflecting on CHANGE, was choreographed by Shabaz Ujima to “Another Mirage,” a South Asian composition by Indian tabla virtuoso Kirby Shelstad, who credits the work to his collaboration with the “dancers and the Ancestors.” Rather than emphasizing exoticism, this work highlighted collaboration, first between the dancers and the musicians, then with the audience too, some of whom were brought on stage and told to “pick your favorite concept to inspire you to move freely around the space.”
One of the things I like most about the Nashville Ballet is its diversity and interest in treating all music—traditional, classical, popular, Western, and non-Western—with the same reverence in expression. This is the perfect ballet company for the Music City.
For more information, visit www.nashvilleballet.com