by Chris Davis
There are few annual dance events that I look forward to the way I look forward to New Ballet Ensembles' SpringLoaded concerts. These days Memphis Jookin' is so ubiquitous that I'm tempted to insert the expression "peak jookin" into our ongoing cultural conversation. But NBE was the first local company to mix Memphis street forms and classical dance and over time styles have evolved within the company that can't be easily described as Jookin', Ballet, or Flamenco. It is instead, as I described in this truncated history of Memphis' "Gangsta Walk," some new kind of Rock-and-Roll. This year NBE is doing something especially nifty.
If ever there was a ballet begging for a little Memphis street it's “Coppelia, which tells the story of an inventor who has created a life sized dancing doll, and the villager who falls in love with the lifeless automaton.
If you don't know why a robot ballet based on a series of ETA Hoffman stories would be perfect for a company with street cred, maybe this video shot at Collins' barber shop can clue you in.
New Ballet's "Coppelia ReMix”, tells the story of a jookin’ Dr. Coppelius and the yong people who visit his toy store. Choreographers include Kaori Ogasawara, Robin Sanders and Artistic Director, Katie Smythe.
In addition to "Coppelia" the ensemble will also perform new repertoire by guest choreographer, Francesca Harper and a new Flamenco work by Noelia Garcia Carmona to original music by Roy Brewer.
Last year Carmon's duet with Shamar Rooks, featuring original music by Brewer was a season highlight.
For details about SpringLoaded you can visit NBE's website, here.
So who exactly are The Hot Foot Honeys? They're Memphis' brand new (and ONLY, to the best of my knowledge) tap dance company. The group is presenting its inaugural show, "HeArt & Sole: A Rhythm Revue for Tap Lovers," April 25-27. Although rooted in tap the show features dancers from many traditions, ranging from Africa to Ireland.
Memphis dancer Marianne Bell founded the company noting that many other cities, such as St. Louis, Chicago, Atlanta, and New Orleans all have established tap communities," while "Memphis— a city that can't stage a musical without a flashy tap break— does not.
I don't have any footage of the new company, but I do have a preview clip from an outdoor tap/vaudeville routine Bell staged for a tree-themed environmental concert. This fun piece takes inspiration from beatnik culture.
Guest artists performing with the Hot Foot Honeys include Artistik Approach, Bridging Souls Productions, Inis Acla School of Irish Dance, Wayne M. Smith, and steppers from Phi Beta Sigma.
April 25-27, 2014 at Evergreen Theatre in midtown.
Price: Adults- $7.50 in advance, $10 at box office. Children under 10- $5, 302-5487