BWW Review: 2018 NASHVILLE BALLET BALL Stuns at Schermerhorn Symphony Center
There's something magical about the Nashville Ballet and that statement rang true during the 2018 Nashville Ballet Ball at the Schermerhorn Symphony Center. The annual event serves as a fundraiser for the amazing organization, with funds going toward the Nashville Ballet's Community Engagement program that not only supports its incredible performances, but also offers arts education to many underprivileged students across Middle Tennessee.
The Ballet has a special way of developing unique performances both in concept and choreography, which was demonstrated when the company came together with John Carter Cash to uniquely present the work of Johnny and June Carter Cash through the art of ballet. Cash called upon friends Sheryl Crow, Ronnie Dunn, Jamey Johnson, Bill Miller, Ana Cristina Cash and country newcomer Devin Dawson to help bring his parents' music to life while the Ballet showcased their own interpretation through the art of dance with original choreography by Christopher Stuart.
Pure beauty was on display as both the musicians and dancers united under the power of Cash's music, with Dunn honorably performing the iconic "Folsom Prison Blues" while Crow added her own touch to "Walk the Line," the song she always hears when she thinks of Johnny Cash. Johnson let the music take center stage with his compelling performance of "Ring of Fire" allowing the melody to take the lead while drawing the audience's attention to the dancers on stage. Keenan McLaren Hartman and Jon Upleger demonstrated captivating chemistry during their artistic and emotional performance, using the song's strong lyrics as a backdrop for their movements.
The spirit of the Cash's could be felt inside the stunning Schermerhorn as Cash shared that he knew his mother was smiling down watching the beautiful tributes unfold, before bringing out his wife Ana Cristina to sing a commanding rendition of Cash's famous cover of "Hurt," saying that no one alive sings it better than she does, in a musical performance that was accompanied by an equally enthralling and dramatic dance by the full company. Cash and his wife's duet of the upbeat "Jackson" was met with one of the best dances of the night, which embodied all the charisma of the song as Katie Vasilopoulos, Logan Hillman, Alexandra Meister and Judson Veach brought energy and personality to the stage.
Miller and Dawson united for one of the evening's most eclectic numbers on Johnny Cash's cover of the fiery "God's Gonna Cut You Down," with the dancers bringing a bit of hip-hop to the ballet, adding an interesting element to the show. Perhaps the most intimate aspect of the evening was not just the incredible performances by the ballet, but the humble anecdotes about Johnny and June one doesn't get to hear every day, like Crow, Dunn and Dawson sharing how Cash's music has impacted their own lives, to John Carter Cash sharing special memories of his parents, like how is father was never afraid to say what he meant and how his mother took him as a child to see SWAN LAKE and an opera in Vienna that changed his life and "opened up my heart and my mind," irrevocably inspiring his love of the arts.
It was only fitting that Cash was awarded the esteemed Synergy Award for his efforts in establishing creative partnerships with the arts, serving as a mentor during the Ballet's original production of UNDER THE LIGHTS in 2013 and has since become a friend and mentor to the company.
The 2018 Nashville Ballet Ball proved that only in Music City would a ballet company have the resources and talent to transform the music of one of the most revered acts in the world into an elegant ballet that incorporates original elements, making such timeless tunes feel fresh, a gift the Nashville Ballet beautifully possesses with each performance and continues to share with fans and the many young people they impact every day.