Dance Preview: ‘East Meets West’ at Dance Theatre of Tennessee’s next program

dttsailDance Theatre of Tennessee will mark another milestone this weekend: For the first time in its four-year history, the company will introduce some live music into one of its performances.

Music City Baroque, Nashville’s premier period-instrument group, will perform the music of Johann Sebastian Bach during DTT’s “East Meets West” program this weekend at Father Ryan High School Auditorium. The musicians will perform to choreographer Hazel Gower’s Green, a four-movement work that explores the essence of the earth’s beauty.

“I’ve wanted to introduce some live music into our performances for some time,” says Christopher Mohnani, DTT’s artistic director. “Hazel’s piece offered the perfect chance to team up with a local ensemble that specializes in Baroque music.”

Gower’s work consists of four movements named for the classical elements – earth, water, air and fire.  In “Earth,” a solo ballerina will incorporate Tai Chi into traditional ballet moves. Five ballerinas will seemingly float through “Water,” while three couple will execute high lifts in “Air.” In the final movement, “Fire,” the dancers will move quickly, as if stepping on hot coals.

The piano music of the Polish composer Frederic Chopin was considered exotic when he first appeared in Paris in the 1830s – what was one to make of all those ethnic mazurkas and polonaises? In Mirror, Romance and Fame, choreographer Manuel Molina’s piece, three of Chopin’s preludes (Nos. 13, 15 and 24) sound comfortably familiar and romantic. “Molina’s choreography presents some incredibly tricky partnering for our dancers Jennifer Drake and Brian Williamson,” says Mohnani. “But the dancing is also filled with beautiful lines.”

Classical music will get its due at this weekend’s program, but in Ric Culalic’s piece Nuts, Beethoven will have to roll over for the Beatles. This fun and frenetic work offers a humorous and contemporary take on ballet duets.

Choreographer Jojo Lucila’s Yebo combines Asian-themed movements and props with unconventional dancing. “This piece has much more of a tribal and ethnic feel,” says Mohnani. The evening concludes with Gener Caringal’s Vinta (Sailboat), a substantial 35-minute work for one principal, two soloists and eight corps ballerinas. “The piece features the really cool synthesizer music of Vangelis,” says Mohnani. “It is beautiful to watch and features dancers unfurling gorgeous fabric.”

Performances of “East Meets West” are 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 22 and 2 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 23 at Father Ryan HS Auditorium, 700 Norwood Dr. Tickets are $25 adults and $20 children and are available by clicking here.

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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.