by Chris Davis
Memphis has a diverse and enduring dance community, and some of the cities brightest exports and most exciting regional innovations are have their roots in a full-on collision of classical dance, music, and street cultures.
In recent weeks dance fans have seen classical companies like Ballet Memphis and New Ballet Ensemble taking their place on larger stages.
New Ballet Ensemble students ages recently performed with the Memphis Symphony at the Cannon Center and 13-year-old TJ Benson joined the world renown cellest Yo-Yo Ma for the encore.
Yo-Yo Ma has previously performed with NBE alum Li'l Buck.
An introductory film suggests that the plan for these three new ballets was to reflect three zones through which the river passes: one ballet (Steven McMahon’s “Confluence”) on the central area around Memphis, one on the Delta and New Orleans (Julia Adam’s “Second Line”), and another on — what? This third ballet (Matthew Neenan’s “Party of the Year”) proved the least obviously river-connected: its setting was a party in Los Angeles. This didn’t make it a disappointment, however. Instead, it was both the evening’s biggest hit and one of the most beguiling new American ballets of our day.