Notes from the Artistic Director on the premiere of 'Next Steps'

October 6th, 2016

Dear friends, 

Our fall show of three original new works was conceived by Steven McMahon as an exploration of our moving forward, which our new building exemplifies. We are the apex of dance for Memphis, and have a national reputation for our long-held commitment to making our company as diverse as our community and as multicultural as our democracy. We also are known for continually exploring where our art form can change, can be welcoming, and can express various points of celebration or struggle.

Re-conceiving romantic ballet was Julie Niekrasz’ assignment in Sa Voix. This form of ballet, with women in ethereal gossamer skirts, usually presented an untouchable version of a pure and angelic woman. She was an intriguing creature to be respected, but was also kept out of the fray, out of the decision making, and at the beck and call of someone else’s magic touch. Furthermore, she often came from the impoverished ranks of young women, and could easily be taken advantage of. And she often died of a broken heart.

In Vanguard, it was the classical tutu’s circular shape which drew Steven’s interest as a launching point. A circle, in its ideal version, can represent a completely fair and democratic notion – there is no head, nor top or bottom, even no beginning nor ending. But in a classical tutu ballet, traditionally, there are still lines, and leaders, and in-between soloists (much like corporate middle managers), yet it is the shape of the woman in a tutu that remains the assumed icon of the ballet world. Through the years, more and more of the female dancer’s body has been exposed. As a costume, the tutu is revealing and impractical, yet still carries the stu of dreams. Does it protect something fundamental about its wearer, or isolate her, or both? Is not the promise of equality what we need to focus on going forward? Are women strong enough to do the lifting to generate action? Can men and women be on equal footing with each other, partner one another?

Mark Godden’s A Distant Glimmer: Catherine de’ Medici is a twist as we look back hundreds of years to the trading of royal women back and forth to assure a nation’s power. In it we see the dynamics of a few moving their pawns on a chessboard, and yet, we also see a moment of triumph as Catherine de’ Medici realizes she too is now a force and a figure of power. There is so much to consider in our conscious and unconscious ways of perceiving others and ourselves, and ourselves, and to bring attention and questioning to those ways through the creation of art.

Look, laugh, be transported with us in Next Steps, but please keep thinking! We hope our steps move more and more of us forward toward the best we can be. Certainly, we can call upon ourselves not to step on others, but to step with others.

With gratitude,

Dorothy Gunther Pugh CEO & Founding Artistic Director