Ballet Memphis’ “River Project: Moving Currents”

Posted on November 25, 2014


Image via

Image via

By: Rachel Glazer

The third and final installment of Ballet Memphis‘ “River Project” was held at Playhouse on the Square during the last few weeks of October. This year’s performance was known as “Moving Currents,” and it was comprised of three separate pieces, each one representing a business, spiritual, or environmental aspect of Memphis. The project successfully combines the performing arts with the history and culture of Memphis, and because of this, the “River Project” has gained nationwide recognition. Due to this year’s especially inspiring installment, the project has received an exceptionally complimentary review in The New York Times, among other worldwide recognition. 

The first of the three pieces is called “Day and Night in FedEx City.” The choreographer was inspired to unite ballet moves and FedEx routines after taking a tour of the FedEx facilities. The teamwork and diligence utilized in the operations at FedEx clearly paralleled the elements that are also necessary for producing a ballet. The dancers played the roles of FedEx employees by pretending to pack and ship boxes, as well as pilot the airplanes.

The second piece, “The Darting Eyes,” is centered on historical Mississippi river baptisms, and dancers represented some of the Seven Deadly Sins and Virtues to further deepen the piece and its’ spiritual power. The simplicity of the piece did not keep viewers from becoming engulfed into the lives of the dancers as they prepared for their descent into the water for Baptism.

The last piece, “Flyaway,” portrays the Mississippi Flyaway, a significant migratory path for North American birds. The piece is unusual, captivating, uplifting, and provides a sense of freedom as the dancers mirror the actions of flying birds. The strict ballet techniques are loosened, and a stronger emphasis is placed on bird movements such as rapidly changing, odd head positions, and sharp neck and leg movements.

Thanks to the cleverness and uniqueness of these pieces, last month’s production shed a positive light on Ballet Memphis as well as the city of Memphis. Having the opportunity to view this ballet provided audience members with a new perspective and pride regarding the rich culture in Memphis. These three aspects of Memphis, which were represented in artistic and creative ways through dance, serve as a reminder that Memphis is different from any other city in the world.

It is important to note that ArtsMemphis, an organization that has been supporting the project for three years, funded the “River Project” series. Due to such donations, some of the performers from past shows have been able to go on tour to showcase the pieces. Hopefully, an opportunity for the dancers to tour will arise again this year, and if this happens, Memphians can further rejoice in the idea that Ballet Memphis’ dancers are able to carry the heart and soul of Memphis to other cities and people, all of whom are able to experience the culture and history of Memphis in their own communities through dance.

Posted in: Arts