World-premiere of River Project 2 opens October 19th

Ballet Memphis will launch its 27th mainstage season by celebrating the world premiere of three new ballets created on the company and influenced by the Mississippi River. River Project 2 is a mixed-rep show featuring works by Julia Adam, Petr Zahradnícek, and Ballet Memphis company member Julie Marie Niekrasz.  

River Project 2 will run at Playhouse on the Square, 66 South Cooper, from October 19-27. Tickets are $10-$72 and group rates are available.  

Dorothy Gunther Pugh, founder and artistic director of Ballet Memphis, wanted to create a new series of works–the first long-term series created on a single theme since the company’s lauded Memphis Project–that reflect the cultural migratory history and flow along the Mississippi River. The first chapter in the multi-season River Project premiered in October 2012. The New York Times called it “… one of the most beguiling new American ballets of our day … all lyricism and complexity, it suggests the growth of a culture.”  

“We have this amazing waterway that is metaphorically one of nation’s most influential points for life, culture and creativity,” said Pugh. “It’s an artery for it; a barrier for it; even transportation for it.   “But it concerns me that with a concentration of wealth and power along our coasts, a great deal of American culture from ‘flyover’ cities, such as Memphis, is ignored if we don’t tell the story ourselves.”  

She handpicked these three choreographers and charged them with researching life along the Mississippi to create three new works that carry on Ballet Memphis’ tradition of storytelling.   Devil’s Fruit by Julia Adam is the second piece Adam has choreographed for the River Project series, following last season’s Second Line. In this new work, Adam explores the flora and fauna along the river, specifically the vast and intricate underground network of mushrooms. Adam created a work inspired by breathtaking botanical photos of the fungi and the sheltering quality they possess. Artist Stephanie Crosby created original botanical paintings that will be projected throughout the piece.  

Corps de Fortitude by Julie Marie Niekrasz is her first mainstage piece for Ballet Memphis. The piece focuses on the unsung heroes of American westward expansion: The women who moved their lives and their families in the 1800s. Niekrasz wanted to show a woman's emotional and physical strength, inspired by Sacagawea as well as the women pioneers; a quiet, nurturing strength, yet so full of will and love. She also wanted to show how Native Americans helped guide us through this treacherous land, and the ironic turn around of betraying that trust later on in history.Featuring live vocal performance by Memphis-based singer Lee Taylor.  

The Hurdle Runner by Petr Zahradnícek is based on the life story of George Coleman Poage, born in Hannibal, Mo. before moving with his family to La Crosse, Wis. There, he became the first African American to graduate from the local high school, and in 1903 graduated from University of Wisconsin. He also was the first black athlete to run for the University of Wisconsin, specializing in short sprints and hurdles. In 1904, he competed in the 1904 Olympics in St. Louis and became the first African American to win an Olympic medal after earning a bronze in the 200-meter hurdles. In the piece, Zahradnícek uses the river as a metaphor of a highway moving toward improvement, as Poage overcame hurdles in society that were much greater than the ones he found on the track.  

River Project 2 October 19-27, 2013 Playhouse on the Square 66 South Cooper Tickets: $10, $22, $43, $72 October 19: 8 pm October 20: 2 pm October 24: 8 pm October 25: 8 pm October 26: 8 pm October 27: 2 pm 901-737-7322   River Project 2 is made possible by the New England Foundation for the Arts’ National Dance Project, with lead funding from the Doris Duke Charitable Foundation and The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation with additional funding through FedEx, AutoZone, ArtsMemphis and Tennessee Arts Commission.  

Additional Events:   River Project Symposium, Thursday, October 3, 5 to 8 pm, Hardie Auditorium at Rhodes College. Free. Panel discussions on the history of earthquakes in the region and the history of music as well as a mini-performance from River Project 2. Reception from 5 to 5:30 pm; event begins after.

Music of the River, Friday, October 4, 6 to 9 pm, Crosstown Arts, 430 N. Cleveland. Free, all ages. From traditional folk and swampy soul sounds to blues and jazz, enjoy a musical sampler of the South. Featuring the Memphis Jug Band, Earlice Taylor and Marcella and Her Lovers.  

About Ballet Memphis In its 27th season, Ballet Memphis serves as a creative resource to the nation as a maker and interpreter of the South’s cultural legacy through its innovative neoclassical and contemporary repertoire, as well as production and training of the highest caliber. Founded by Dorothy Gunther Pugh in 1986, Ballet Memphis employs 19 professional dancers with a $4.3 million operating budget and has performed around the world.  The combined programs of Ballet Memphis–dance company, ballet school, educational enrichment and Pilates Centre–serve 80,000 people each year. -30-            

Posted by Susan Moskop at 11:39 AM
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