If Santa keeps track of people who make Memphis look good, the old man probably has something special in mind for a pair of local ballet companies. Ballet Memphis and New Ballet Ensemble may be pulling out the candy-colored Nutcracker costumes and gearing up for their very different takes on the holiday tradition, but as the New Year approaches, both companies can reflect on a period of innovation, growth, and high-profile national exposure.
"Distinctive" and "touching": That's how The New York Times described In Dreams, after Ballet Memphis performed its Roy Orbison tribute at the Kennedy Center in June. Just as that issue of the Times hit the stands, the Today show featured a segment on New Ballet Ensemble that resulted in more than $800,000 in corporate donations. These are the sorts of Memphis things Forbes magazine always seems to miss when it compiles its little lists of infamy.
New Ballet Ensemble founder Katie Smythe says she's "deathly excited and nervous" about this season's performance of Nut ReMix because the Times' dance critic, Alastair Macaulay, is dropping in on a national quest to find fresh takes on the classic. Smythe is especially happy to have received permission to use Deanie Parker's 1958 hit "My Imaginary Guy" for the passage where Clara dances with the Nutcracker. "Oh, and the Chinese dragon does a backflip this year," she says.
Ballet Memphis' Nutcracker features choreography by Janet Parke, Karl Condon, and Joseph Jefferies.
Ballet Memphis' "Nutcracker" at The Orpheum, Saturday, December 11th, at 2 p.m. and 7:30 p.m., and Sunday, December 12th, at 2 p.m. $5-$72
New Ballet Ensemble's "Nut ReMix" at Germantown Performing Arts Centre, Saturday, December 11th, at 7 p.m., and Sunday, December 12th, at 2:30 p.m. $15-$35