Ballet Memphis (Memphis, TN)


  Dancers on stage

Ballet Memphis performs Karl Condon’s South of Everywhere, which explores growing up white in the rural South during the civil rights era. Photo courtesy of Ballet Memphis

Ballet Memphis was founded 17 years ago by artistic director Dorothy Gunther Pugh. It is currently one of the fastest-growing and most respected arts groups in Memphis, and tours both nationally and regionally. Past performances have included classics such as Swan Lake and Giselle in addition to original, innovative programming based on the region's cultural heritage.


Dancers Marianna Ramsour and Garrett Ammon perform in Trey McIntyre’s Grace as part of Ballet Memphis’s three-part program, As the Spirit Moves You. Photo courtesy of Ballet Memphi

In FY 2003, Ballet Memphis received an NEA Creativity grant of $10,000 to produce
As the Spirit Moves You, a three-part program created to introduce dance to new and diverse audiences. The three pieces focused on aspects of Southern culture as a way of inspiring dialogue between different segments of the population. To create this unique program, Ballet Memphis collaborated with the STAX Music Academy, LeMoyne Owen College gospel choirs, and Mississippi singer/songwriter Kate Campbell. More than 3,000 individuals attended the performance over two nights.

Twenty-four Ballet Memphis professional dancers, 13 children, three choreographers—along with a 40-member gospel choir, a five-person band, and singer Kate Campbell—performed together to create the three pieces. The first segment, Mystical Divinity, depicted the life of choreographer and dancer Damien Patterson who grew up in the Baltimore public housing projects. In the second piece, South of Everywhere, choreographer Karl Condon told stories about growing up white in the rural South during the civil rights era. In the closing piece, Grace, world-renowned choreographer Trey McIntyre depicted the struggle of two human beings who discover a happier way of being human.

(From the 2003 NEA Annual Report)