Previewing the 2014-15 season of the Nashville Ballet

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Nashville Ballet traces its roots to 1974, with the opening of The Dancers Studio in Green Hills. Defying the odds facing a small arts group, The Dancers Studio survived and evolved to become Nashville Ballet in 1987.

In 1989, Paul Vasterling joined the company as a dancer, and nine years later, in 1998, he was named Artistic Director. Under Vasterling, Nashville Ballet has become a world-class ballet company, making its international debut in Basel, Switzerland, in 1999. The following year, the company moved into its permanent home at 3630 Redmon Street.

I was able to grab a quick word with Sharyn Mahoney, who is the Director of Artistic Operations. In that capacity she is the overseer of all creative operations, the Education and Outreach Program, and the School of the Nashville Ballet. Sharyn gave me some extra insight into the Ballet’s exciting 2014–2015 season, which kicks off in October.

Sadie Bo Harris in Swan Lake by Marianne Leach.jpgSWAN LAKE (October 17–19) is to ballet what the Mona Lisa is to painting. This iconic work by Tchaikovsky has been referenced so often in popular culture, especially in comedy and advertising, that its music is certainly familiar to us all. The production employs the traditional and time-honored 1895 choreography by Petipa and Ivanov, whose choreography of this ballets has been preserved and presented for over a century by dance companies world-wide. The Nashville production is supplemented with choreography by the artistic director or its resident choreographer for scenes where the original choreography has been lost. This allows the company to showcase its own creativity within the ballet’s traditional presentation.

Nashville's Nutcracker 3 by Karyn Kipley Photography.jpgNASHVILLE’S NUTCRACKER (December 6–24). Over 200 dancers, including an extensive youth cast, will perform Nashville Ballet’s reinvention of this Christmas classic, also by Tchaikovsky. Artistic Director Paul Vasterling has set the story during Nashville’s 1897 Centennial Exhibition. The story’s central character, Clara, first encounters the subjects of her later Christmas Eve visions when she visits the International Exhibition—a brilliant commentary on the ballet’s magical world. For this adaptation, Vasterling did a great deal of research in the Nashville Public Library’s Nashville Room. The ballet opens with a skating scene in Shelby Bottoms Park, where the tale is set.

but the flowers have yet to come (from Attitude) by Marianne Leach.jpgATTITUDE (February 13–15) is a mixed repertory work that combines the music of Johnny and June Carter Cash, the Greek myth of Orpheus and Eurydice as tone-painted by Philip Glass, and the ballet And Legions Will Rise by Brian Enos . It provides audiences a chance to experience both representational and abstract works within a broader definition of ballet, while challenging the dancers to communicate in divergent styles.

Peter and the Wolf.jpgPETER AND THE WOLF (February 14th) is Prokofiev’s wonderful melodrama for children of all ages, here presented as a ballet. The Nashville Symphony will join the Ballet to tell this now-familiar story, which was written by Prokofiev himself. It will introduce audiences to the instruments of the orchestra, as each character is represented by a different instrument. Local artist Norris Hall created the set, which opens like a children's pop-up book.

A Midsummer Night's Dream by Heather Thorne.jpgA MIDSUMMER NIGHT’S DREAM (April 24–26) is a ballet based on composer Felix Mendelssohn’s Overture and Incidental Music to Shakespeare’s play; familiar in the music is the Wedding March that is nowadays commonplace as a wedding recessional. Combining this music and dance with Shakespeare’s wonderful storyline creates another great experience for all audiences.

Clowns & Others by Marianne Leach.jpgCLOWNS AND OTHERS (May 10–17) is the perfect introduction to the world of ballet. The choreographer, Salvatore Aiello, uses clowns and other circus elements to capture human personalities in amazing ways. Kids will love its slapstick comedy and older audiences will enjoy its adult humor.

Emergence 2 by Marianne Leach.jpgEMERGENCE (May 14–16) is a series of works created by the choreographers and dancers of the Nashville Ballet themselves. In a span of two-and-a-half weeks (normal rehearsal time is five to six weeks), the artists team-up to create original works that are often presented as works-in-progress. This gives the audience a window on the Ballet’s artistic process and provides the Ballet a workshop for developing new pieces.

While ballet does not happen without a tremendous team of dedicated artists, Nashville Ballet owes much of its success to its Artistic Director, Paul Vasterling. Mahoney says “Paul Vasterling has done a tremendous job of capturing what we have here at our fingertips here in Nashville.”