We were happy to see Ballet Memphis perform in Starkville last night as part of the Mississippi State University Lyceum Series. We have seen the company in a couple of traditional productions in Memphis, but last night’s pieces were less what you expect from traditional ballet. They were more experimental with interesting variations of costumes, disruptions to the typically fluid ballet choreography, and a more abstract form of storytelling. I think what we all enjoyed most was the unusual musical selections chosen for the dances. One of the things I love about Ballet Memphis is the diversity of the company, and I think that lends itself to some very interesting storytelling. The pieces we saw last night were clearly rooted in Southern culture, and used music that is very indicative of the South with combinations of traditional hymn-like religious music, the negro spiritual sound, a bluegrass feel and even some voice sound recordings of interviews and old gospel sermons. One of the pieces exclusively used Roy Orbison songs — not your typical score for a ballet performance. The consensus favorite with my crew was called “The Darting Eyes,” and was inspired by traditional Mississippi River baptisms through many eras. It was a really beautiful blending of an almost ghost-like historical imagery with the sacred rite of baptism so much ingrained in Southern culture.
I loved that a non-traditional performance like this (absent of the frilly tutus Baby Girl loves about her own ballet performances) could provoke conversations with all three of my children. It was amazing to see the fresh eyes through which they viewed the performance. I’m so grateful we’ve had the chance to see this wonderful company perform several times. Today’s Letter to My Daughter was inspired by the unexpected combination of music of ballet traditions we saw last night. I want to encourage my kids (and myself) to have the courage to choreograph our daily dances to our own music — no matter how unexpected.