Nashville Ballet Explores the Gender Spectrum

Louis York

With the success of last season’s critically-acclaimed production, Lucy Negro Redux, in mind, Nashville Ballet’s annual February series continues the trend of using the art form to address relevant social and cultural topics. Other Voices, this year’s Attitude production, will premiere four new works exploring the topic of gender identity from a few of the world’s hottest new choreographers—Jennifer Archibald, Erin Kouwe, Matthew Neenan, and Carlos Pons Guerra.

National Geographic’s The Gender Issue, published in January 2017, led Nashville Ballet Artistic Director Paul Vasterling to present choreographers with a set of four questions—what does it mean to be a man, what does it mean to be a woman, what does it mean to be both, and what does it mean to be neither—upon which their works are inspired. Each choreographer was encouraged to interpret the questions and expand upon them as they liked.

“In mainstream media we’re seeing similar stories being told and retold; we’ve had the same perspectives and experiences brought to life through every artistic medium possible for so long, and while those perspectives are important, they’re not the only voices or perspectives that we need to hear from or see on stage in order to progress as a community and grow as individuals,” said Vasterling. “Each choreographer has spent over a year reflecting on the four questions I posed, and each one brings aspects of their individual identities—gender, race, sexuality, ethnicity, life experiences—into their work to share new perspectives; they’re telling stories less likely to be told.”

Indicative of the organization’s commitment to elevating new perspectives and creating new work, Nashville Ballet has also selected local musical duo Louis York and composer Cristina Spinei to create original compositions for Other Voices. Vasterling provided the musicians with the same set of thought-provoking questions to inform their compositions, as well as subsequent personal conversations with the choreographers. Louis York’s music will be paired with Archibald’s, Kouwe’s, and Pons Guerra’s pieces, while Neenan’s ballet will be danced to a score by Spinei. What’s more, author Caroline Randall Williams returns to collaborate with Nashville Ballet, opening and closing Archibald’s work with original poetry inspired by Other Voices and Randall Williams’s own reflections on gender identity.

Attitude: Other Voices will be at TPAC’s Polk Theater for three performances: Friday, February 14 at 7:30 p.m.; Saturday, February 15 at 7:30 p.m.; and Sunday, February 16 at 2 p.m. For more information and tickets, please visit nashvilleballet.com/attitude-2020.

Louis York debuts at the Grand Ole Opry February 7

After Louis York recorded “Teach Me a Song” with Jimmie Allen, Jimmie invited the guys to perform alongside him at Grand Ole Opry. Louis York received such a great reception that they got the official invitation to come back and do their own set. They will perform at the Grand Ole Opry on February 7 at 7:00 PM. Also on the bill are Brad Upton, High Valley, Maddie & Tae, Zach Williams, Johnny Rivers and Ricky Skaggs.