Where ballet and food intersect
> Former Ballet Memphis dancer’s motion is still on the menu at ‘Connections: Food’
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”