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Ballet Memphis

"interiorworks 8.0"

by Carmel Morgan

March 10, 2007 -- Ballet Memphis Studio, Cordova, Tennessee

For the past eight years, Ballet Memphis has presented “interiorworks,” an end-of-season showcase of choreography by its company members.  The annual production has grown significantly in the breadth of work it presents and in the number of dancers participating.  It is a joy to watch emerging choreographers take flight and to see young company members mature in their expression.   

This year’s performance was particularly bittersweet because it featured a farewell from beloved Ballet Memphis dancers Garrett Ammon and Dawn Fay.  This talented husband and wife duo is headed west, where Ammon will serve as artistic director of Ballet Nouveau Colorado, and Fay will serve as associate artistic director.  Ammon founded and directed “interiorworks” and was awarded an Individual Artist Fellowship for choreography in 2007 from the Tennessee Arts Commission.  Fay was named as one of Dance Magazine’s 2007 “25 to Watch.”  Their departure is a huge loss for Ballet Memphis fans, but the couple’s taking over the reigns of Colorado’s second largest ballet company speaks well of the caliber of dancers Ballet Memphis attracts and its ability to nurture young choreographers. 

The “interiorworks 8.0” show was a fine example of top-notch dancing and innovative movement.  Seven pieces debuted in the Ballet Memphis studio, which was transformed into an intimate theater environment.  Highlights included two pas de deux, a solo, and a group piece by the rising choreographic star Ammon. 

Company member Travis Bradley introduced “Bare,” a tender duet to the music of Chopin.  Rachel Shumake and Jonathan Powell, fittingly in bare feet and colorless costumes, connected in a series of close embraces and sweeping spins. 

In another gorgeous pas de deux, “Georgia,” choreographer Julie Marie Niekrasz hit the right notes to the tunes of Ray Charles.  Crystal Brothers and Steven McMahon, both redheads, made an engaging pair.  “Georgia” underscored her agility and his strength.  Brothers tossed herself into McMahon, literally jumping into his arms.  The work, most of it performed on a diagonal lit in gold, was both elegant and passionate.

The two final pieces of the evening were the most moving.  “Opus,” by budding choreographer Steven McMahon, offered dancer Kara Bruzina a work of great depth.  Bruzina, who will be taking a year off due to an injury, delivered a poignant adieu to her art.  In a classical ballet tutu, she partnered with a red balloon, holding it, letting it go, and even punching it.  The balloon followed her until the end of the piece, when she finally seemed to have made peace with it.  She handed the balloon to an audience member, but she glanced back at it wistfully as she exited.   

The last piece was “Soul Meets Body” by Garrett Ammon.  It featured six dancers, all in shades of white.  The modern movement was filled with energy, and the ensemble  sections were precise and strong.  The dancers ran, grasped, and passed one another.  Their crossings, accompanied by the music of Death Cab for Cutie, culminated in three dancers going one way and three the other in another figurative farewell.      

Although it is sad that several of the dancers of Ballet Memphis are moving on, “interiorworks 8.0” showed that all of them are moving in positive new directions.  Hopefully, Ballet Memphis’ annual “interiorworks” performance will continue since it has so successfully cultivated original works from among its dancers. 

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