Dance Theatre of Tennessee announces innovative third season

carmenImagine the magic that ballet can work on the imagination of a wide-eyed eight-year-old boy or girl. It’s not that hard, since it’s happened before. Christopher Mohnani was just eight when he attended his first ballet, an outdoor performance of Don Quixote. The event changed his life.

“I loved the beauty and athleticism of the dancers,” says Mohnani, who now serves as artistic director of Dance Theatre of Tennessee. “I was hooked.”

Mohnani wants Nashville’s children and families to be equally transfixed by ballet. So starting in September, Dance Theatre of Tennessee will launch its first annual “Ballet at the Park.” Those outdoor performances will raise the curtain on an ambitious third season that will include a world premiere, exciting collaborations and mountings of timeless ballet classics.

The season opens Sept. 30 through Oct. 1 at the Centennial Park Bandshell with a double feature, Carmen and Ecole de Ballet. DTT’s rendition of Carmen is based on Georges Bizet’s ever-popular opera about a Spanish soldier who falls under the spell of a sensuous gypsy. Ecole de Ballet explores the journey of a young dancer from novice to artist. Performances start at 7:30 p.m. with pre-show entertainment at 6:30 p.m. The Oct. 1 performance will be part of this year’s Artober – Nashville’s month-long celebration of the arts.

NJO1DTT will join forces with the Nashville Jazz Orchestra on Oct. 5 to present an evening of Latin jazz and dance. NJO, under the direction of Jim Williamson, usually devotes its October concert to Latin music. These rhythmically vital performances inspire audience members to take to the floor for a little salsa dancing, so it was only a matter of time before Williamson called in the professionals. “Our dancers will offer a beautiful complement to the music,” Mohnani says. The performance will start at 8 p.m. at the Blair School of Music’s Ingram Hall.

dtt-ncAs always, DTT will ring in the holiday season with its popular touring Nutcracker performances. DTT has a populist mission of bringing classical dance to the people, and what better way to do that than by taking history’s most popular ballet on the road. This season, the company will present its Nutcracker at the Lamplighter Theater in Smyrna (Nov. 19-20), Ensworth Theater in Nashville (Nov. 23-24), Creek Wood High School Auditorium in Dickson (Dec. 1-2), Austin Peay University in Clarksville (Dec. 8-9),  Tucker Theatre on the campus of MTSU in Murfreesboro (Dec. 15-16) and Smithville Arts Center in Smithville (Dec. 19-20).

musesDTT will give modern dance its due in March with a program called “Muses.” The performance will include George Balanchine’s Who Cares?, set to the music of George Gershwin, along with choreographer Ma Cong’s tango called Passion, There and a new, yet untitled world-premiere dance by Darrell Grand Moultrie, who has created works for Alvin Ailey’s American Dance Theatre. Those performances are Mar. 2-3 at Father Ryan High School Auditorium.

The season concludes with DTT’s Story Book Series, a full-length performance of Cinderella. The ballet, based on the famous fairy tale, features an appealing mix of romance and comedy – the Ugly Stepsisters are always a scream. Performances are May 4-5 at MTSU’s Tucker Theatre in Murfreesboro.

DTT is referring to its 2012-13 season as “The Many Faces of Eve,” a nod to the dominate role that women – from Carmen to the Nutcracker’s Sugar Plum Fairy to Cinderella – play in the performances. DTT will present a special season preview starting at 7:30 p.m. Sept. 8 at Montgomery Bell Academy. For more information about the preview and the entire season, go to www.dancetheatretn.org or call (615) 391-5500.

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About John Pitcher

John Pitcher is the chief classical music, jazz and dance critic as well as co-founder of ArtsNash. He has been a classical music critic for the Washington Post, the Rochester (NY) Democrat and Chronicle, National Public Radio’s Performance Today (NPR), ArtNowNashville.com and the Nashville Scene. His writings about music and the arts have also appeared in Symphony Magazine, American Record Guide and Stagebill Magazine, among other publications. Pitcher earned his master’s degree in journalism from Columbia University’s Graduate School of Journalism, where he studied arts writing with Judith Crist and Phyllis Garland. His work has received the New York State Associated Press award for outstanding classical music criticism.