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2018/2019 Tour Dates
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“The climate that Ballet Memphis brings to the stage is unorthodox, peculiar, fresh and large-spirited. The mood blowing through all of these dances is generous, imaginatively breaking rules.”
– Alastair Macaulay, The New York Times
“If there is a ballet company in the United States that takes racial integration more seriously than this one, I’d love to know about it.”
– Mindy Aloff, Dance Enthusiast
“By fearlessly taking risks on less-established artists, Pugh is championing examples that can be inspirations for future dancers and choreographers. What’s more, she’s creating something different from the same-old same-old you find on so many ballet stages.”
– Jennifer Stahl, Dance Magazine
In Dreams, performed to the expressive voice of Roy Orbison, is a sometimes dark, always passionate journey through six of the legendary artist’s most popular songs.
Matthew Neenan’s Party of the Year is inspired by the New York Times-best-selling book, The Warmth of Other Suns, about struggle, defeat and triumph during the heart of the “Great Migration,” an era between 1910 and 1970 when more than 6 million African Americans moved out of the rural South to other parts of the United States.
The company also performs story ballets, including Ballet Memphis’ Choreographic Associate Steven McMahon’s Wizard of Oz (description below), Peter Pan, and Cinderella and a production of Nutcracker.
Wizard of Oz
Red shoes and witches, poppies and munchkins, and all of Dorothy’s friends are here for this beloved story. Wizard of Oz, choreographed by Steven McMahon, is a two-act performance danced by 23 performers which has an option to incorporate up to 20 local children into the performance.
The production of I Am includes four commissioned pieces came from founding artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh’s ideas regarding, as she says, “giving voice to the voiceless.” The encompassing title I Am is inspired in part by the iconic “I Am A Man” signs held by striking sanitation workers in Memphis in 1968. None of the pieces are specifically about that moment in Memphis history but reflect the larger, related idea that everyone matters, that dignity and kindness must ultimately speak louder than the superficial noises and dark currents all around.
BALLET MEMPHIS is now in its 31st season and is recognized for its close ties to the region’s rich musical and literary heritage through dance, production and training, including its lauded Memphis Project works, its River Project series, and its current Places works. Ballet Memphis has staff and facilities of the highest caliber, and partners with artists from around the globe for collaborative and original works. The Ford Foundation lauded Ballet Memphis as a “national treasure.” The Company has received grants and high praise from other foundations and national media alike, including the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation, the National Dance Project, the New York Times, The Washington Post, Wall Street Journal, The Huffington Post, Fast Company, Dance magazine, Pointe magazine and others. It has performed to excellent reviews at the John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts in Washington, D.C., at the Joyce Theater and the Sylvia and Danny Kaye Playhouse in New York City, at Houston’s Dance Salad, at the Festival des Arts de Saint-Saveur (Canada), and Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in Massachusetts, among others.
Dorothy Gunther Pugh (CEO & Founding Artistic Director) is a native Memphian who began her ballet training with Edith Royal of Orlando, Florida and later studied with Louise Rooke and Memphis Ballet. After graduating cum laude from Vanderbilt University, she studied with Raymond Clay and Donna Carver, and performed with Dance Concert Theatre. She completed teacher-training courses at the Royal Academy of Dance in London and with New York ballet master David Howard. Dorothy has appeared on several national dance panels, including PBS NewsHour, the National Endowment for the Arts Dance Panel and the Glass Slipper Ceiling Symposium. A member of the Royal Society for the Encouragement of Arts, Manufactures and Commerce, she has received the Women of Achievement Award for Initiative and the Gordon Holl Outstanding Arts Administrator’s Award, and is a recipient of a fellowship from the Center for Social Innovation at Stanford University Graduate School of Business. She is a fellow in the National Arts Strategies’ Chief Executive Program™ and was named a 2012 Legends Award winner from the Women’s Foundation for a Greater Memphis. In 2013, she received the Briggs’ Foundation Community Service Award. She is the 2015 chair of the Artistic Directors’ Council for Dance/USA, the nation’s largest dance service organization for professional dance companies. Dorothy appeared in many roles with Ballet Memphis before leaving the stage.
Steven McMahon (Associate Artistic Director) joined Ballet Memphis in 2001 as a dancer and has created more than a dozen ballets for Ballet Memphis, including his first full-length ballet, Wizard of Oz as well as Soul Selects Her Own Society, Confluence, The Royal We and Peter Pan. His other new ballets for Ballet Memphis include Carnival of the Animals, Romeo and Juliet and Cinderella. Steven also has choreographed many original works including The Lovely Story of Us, which was performed in Helsinki, Finland, at the International Ballet Competition, and two of his works, Being Here With Other People and Confluence, have been performed at the Spring to Dance Festival in St. Louis. His works also have been performed at Organizacion Para La Artes in Guatemala and at other venues around the nation. His first ballet, What Your Soul Sings, premiered at Ballet Memphis’ Interiorworks. He was a 2016 National Arts Strategies Senior Management Institute fellow as well as a fellow in the 2016 Salzburg Global Forum for Young Cultural Innovators in Salzburg, Austria. Steven, who is originally from Glasgow, Scotland, joined the Company after completing his training at The Ailey School in New York City. He retired from the stage in 2016.