For sometime the Nashville Ballet has had a penchant for celebrating the Holiday season. No, I’m not talking about the Nutcracker and sugar plum fairies. I’m talking about murder (Lizzie Bordon), haunting (The Raven), witches (Something Wicked), and the undead (Dracula). The holiday is Halloween, and this year is no different with their most recent production of Seven Deadly Sins (concept and choreography by Christopher Stuart) and Superstition (a choreography by Jennifer Archibald setting a composition by Nashville-based composer Cristina Spinei). While both pieces are reprises of previous productions, the performances on Saturday night were fresh and exciting, revealing not only the strength but also the depth of Nashville’s premiere Ballet troupe.
Archibald and Spinei’s Superstitions abstracted the “specifically Southern Italian (Sicilian and Calabrese) superstitions” that inspired Spinei in this composition. Focused on coupling, Archibald’s choreography was a revelation in the way she stripped the dance of its performed gendered expectations, (eg. men lift and women are lifted, men lead and women follow, etc). However, instead of being reactionary (women being men and vice versa) she reimaged the couple and ensemble moments as a more fluid and shared responsibility in balance—the women and men were both put into positions that showed strength and grace. Set for cello, violin, piano and electric bass, Spinei’s score is contemporary in a third stream sort of way. It seems that her music is increasingly reflective of her presence in and awareness of the diversity of music here in Music City.
Jon Upleger (Protagonist) and Mollie Sansone’s (Agatho) reprise of Seven
Deadly Sins was, if anything, better than its premiere in 2016. A morality play set to whose concept is set to music by k. s. Rhoads and Ten Out of Ten, each track dealt with its own sin in a different way, but always through lived experience instead of morality. It was on the dance floor that the sins were, in effect, made flesh and yet abstracted. Sarah Cordia’s “Pride” was malicious while Julia Eisen and Julia Mitchell’s “Lust” was fantastic. Remarkably, the impossible part of the product, depicting gluttony by a group of ballet dancers was well achieved by Brett Sjoblom and the Full Cast. The music is always very well done by Ten Out of Tenn and I hope that this collaboration will continue into new projects.