This weekend, Nashville Ballet will debut Modern Masters, a new initiative designed to bring the work of the world's finest choreographers to Middle Tennessee audiences. The program includes works by George Balanchine, Jiří Kylián and Christopher Wheeldon— and while these names might be unfamiliar to the ballet novice, Nashville Ballet company member Judson Veach emphasized just how iconic they are in the dance world.
"It's like a Mount Rushmore of choreographers," Veach said in conversation over the phone. "There's a reason the show is called Modern Masters, because these guys are the best the field has to offer."
The program offers a wide variety of subject matter, as well as a wide variety of music, which will be played live by the Nashville Symphony. But Veach says what ties these pieces together is how each choreographer works with music. "All three are really well known for their musicality," he explains. "Because of how well the movement is put to music, you'll have the same satisfying experience with each ballet."
Balanchine's Western Symphony is a celebratory homage to the Wild West set to folk tunes arranged by composer Hershy Kay. The piece, which originally premiered in 1954, is also as a nod to Balanchine's fascination with American themes; the Russian-born choreographer co-founded the New York City Ballet and is known as the father of American ballet.
Six Dances, by Czech choreographer Jiří Kylián, is a satirical take on the formality of the 1700's, fittingly underscored by Mozart's Six German Dances, K. 509. Veach explains that the juxtaposition between the classical music and prim, powdered-wigged costumes and Kylián's comedic timing is wonderfully funny.
Veach, who is dancing in all three ballets, says he feels the most pressure performing Christopher Wheeldon's Ghosts, largely because Wheeldon will be in attendance. "When you have a world renowned choreographer sitting in the audience watching his work being performed by you... that is always a lot of pressure," he says, adding that the fact that the company is so well-rehearsed keeps him at ease.
Also in attendance will be Nashville's C.F Kip Winger. The rocker-turned-classical-composer penned the music for Ghosts and has visited the ballet studio during rehearsals. Veach says the dancers have been wowed by the beauty of Winger's score, and are excited to showcase the work of a Nashville composer.
The company is already looking forward to curating next year's Modern Masters and continuing to showcase the work of powerhouse choreographers. The quality and growth of Nashville Ballet's work, as well as the company's commitment to performing with live music, is something that Veach feels very passionate about.
"There's nothing like sitting in a theater with live performers, live musicians, and a live audience. It's a uniquely human experience," he says. "We dedicate all of these resources to presenting these works, and audiences dedicate their time and resources to experiencing them. I hope audiences dedicate themselves to these works in particular, because they're the best that are going to come through Nashville."