I purchased a ticket to this performance a few months ago on a whim. Mainly because the teaser photos looked interesting and I very rarely see other companies not based in NY.
I can't tell you how much I loved this company and their Southern Gothic style of ballet. It was something so different, it makes me wonder if they have a finger on the new pulse of ballet. If not, they sure are close to something great.
What surprised me was how they mixed musical genres in a single ballet. Everything I've seen before that does this looks awkward. But not with Ballet Memphis. I believe it is because they have a very well planned style, purpose and story they want to tell with dance. So the changes in the music seemed natural.
The first piece was called Confluence. It began classically with a piece by Dvorak. The women were in long dance dresses and then men in tunics. The choreography mixed in some modern dance steps with classical ballet. The performance than hit its high with a musical piece by Mahalia Jackson.
The next piece was I am a woman: Moult. This piece dressed the women as mannequins, showing how their inner nature is hidden by cultural concepts of female beauty. Crystal Brothers really stood out in this piece. There were some creepy elements in the choreography. Such as the few men in the ballet, would position the women into various poses and carrying them around like inanimate objects. This would be carried further with the women dancers doing the same to one another when the male dancers were not present. There was also a very powerful pas de deux between Lauren Pschirrer and Stephen McMahon which outlined a very bad marriage based upon people just falling into a partnership or even being forced into it by community influence.
The Darting Eyes was the most Southern in its style. It is based on the revival religion and tent river baptisms. Each dancer was dressed as an archetype of the South. This piece wasn't as engaging as the others since it was more serious. But that isn't to say the dancing wasn't great. It was. There was just an element in it that creeped me. One dance couple, Travis Bradley and Hideki Karasawa looked decades apart in age. It didn't help that they had her dressed in this jumper outfit that made her look even younger while he was in khakis and an open shirt. It looked very..."Me and My Underage Bride". Which was probably the point but it was excruciating to watch them dance sometimes very suggestive choreography.
The showstopper was held for the last piece which was called Politics. This ballet included live vocalists, Ballet Memphis dancers and professional Jookin dancers. Everyone was dressed in office wear with the Ballet Memphis dancers in pointe shoes and the Jookin dancers in sneakers. It was fantastic and by far the favorite of the audience.
I hope Ballet Memphis can make more trips to New York. The last time they visited was in 2007, 8 years to wait between engagements is too long. Hopefully that won't be the case next time. Because they have gathered many NY fans during this visit.