Where bal­let and food in­ter­sect

> For­mer Bal­let Mem­phis dancer’s mo­tion is still on the menu at ‘Con­nec­tions: Food’

The Commercial Appeal - Go Memphis - - Stage - By Christo­pher Blank

Spe­cial to The Com­mer­cial Ap­peal

When Gar­rett Am­mon took his fi­nal bow with Bal­let Mem­phis in 2007, he knew he’d been given the break of a life­time.

Bal­let Nou­veau Colorado, a medium-sized con­tem­po­rary dance com­pany near Den­ver, needed a new artis­tic di­rec­tor. Am­mon ap­plied for the job. He got it.

Am­mon and his wife, bal­le­rina Dawn Fay, had been stars of Bal­let Mem­phis for years. He was a tall, mus­cu­lar dancer with an Ado­nis physique. She was the bal­le­rina with a goth-girl mien and the abil­ity to dance any­thing a chore­og­ra­pher could throw at her.

But they were both in their early 30s, an age when many joint-worn dancers start looking for new ca­reers.

Am­mon, how­ever, learned much from vis­it­ing chore­og­ra­phers, es­pe­cially the renowned Trey McIn­tyre.

Am­mon cre­ated an en­er­gized ar­ray of work for Bal­let Mem­phis, in­clud­ing dances set to mu­sic by Johnny Cash, INXS and blues­man R.L. Burn­side. It was the kind of fresh, easy-to-di­gest move­ment that ap­pealed to Bal­let Nou­veau’s board of direc­tors. They didn’t want pointe shoes and tu­tus. That’s what Colorado Bal­let does. They wanted to rock a lit­tle.

Fay was hired as Am­mon’s as­so­ciate artis­tic di­rec­tor. The new power cou­ple of dance touched down in Den­ver and got to work.

He chore­ographed bal­lets to mu­sic by Queen and David Bowie, and when “Gar­rett Am­mon’s Rock Bal­lets” de­buted, the lo­cal crit­ics were duly im­pressed. The com­pany, now with a bud­get of $1.5 mil­lion, has grown de­spite the econ­omy. He now helms the third or fourth largest dance com­pany in Colorado.

“We en­tered the down­turn with a lot of for­ward mo­men­tum,” he said.

Am­mon’s a busy man, th­ese days. In fact, he can’t be in Mem­phis Satur­day night when Bal­let Mem­phis pre­mieres his lat­est work at the com­pany’s sold-out an­nual fundraiser “Con­nec­tions: Food.” His sched­ule was so packed that he ac­tu­ally chore­ographed his por­tion of the show last sea­son, long be­fore he even knew what was on the menu.

The idea of “Con­nec­tions: Food” is to pair lo­cal chefs with chore­og­ra­phers. In the past, the chefs picked the menu and the chore­og­ra­phers cre­ated dances as an off­shoot of the dish. But this time around, the dish fol­lowed Am­mon’s lead. He chose mu­sic by the great New Orleans mu­si­cian Dr. John. Chef Kelly English of the mid­town eatery Restau­rant Iris com­ple­ments it with Sad­dle of Lamb “Vin Cotto” with Cre­ole An­douille Flan and Truf­fled Gumbo.

If there’s one thing Am­mon took from Bal­let Mem­phis’ artis­tic di­rec­tor Dorothy Gun­ther Pugh and her fre­quent at­tempts to pair dance with dif­fer­ent art forms (i.e. dance with food, dance with ar­chi­tec­ture, dance with pup­pets, dance with slam po­etry, etc.) it’s a de­sire to col­lab­o­rate other artists, in­clud­ing his for­mer dance com­pany.

In Colorado, Am­mon has teamed up with a the­ater troupe, a writer’s work­shop and has asked new chore­og­ra­phers to sub­mit ideas via YouTube.

“I was def­i­nitely able to look at what Dorothy was do­ing as a way to to ex­plore new ideas,” Am­mon said. “Go­ing out­side your own art form al­lows you to evolve.”

“Hank Wil­liams: Lost High­way”:

“The Hor­ror of the Lit­tle Fam­ily Farce”: Mighty Real Tour: A mul­ti­me­dia evening of du­el­ing so­los:

“The Mu­si­cal Com­edy Mur­ders of 1940”:

“A Street­car Named De­sire”

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