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Nashville Ballet collaborates with Belmont percussion ensemble in “The Emperor and the Nightingale”

The Nashville Ballet’s Outreach & Education Department collaborated with Belmont’s School of Music Saturday afternoon at the Massey Performing Arts Center in a collaboration of the arts in the production of “The Emperor and the Nightingale.”

A collaboration of the arts took place on Saturday afternoon as a group of Belmont percussionists and Nashville Ballet’s second company took the stage at the MPAC in the production of “The Emperor and the Nightingale.”

A story of an emperor and a songbird in China unfolded as Nashville Ballet’s second company is accompanied by a group of specially-selected percussion students.

The original production was inspired by Hans Christian Andersen and composed by Todd London, a Belmont professor.

London chose the group of percussion students, providing them with the opportunity to experience a combination of two different art forms.

Christine Comer, a junior classical percussion performance major, appreciated her experience with London and the ballet, explaining the two art forms were valuable to her education.

“I think any time you can bring various disciplines together it always makes for a better product,” said Comer.

Community Outreach and Education manager Briona Richardson explained the outreach program was started in hopes of exposing people of all ages to the artistry in dance. Speaking about the relationship between the ballet company and Belmont, Richardson said how beneficial their experience has been.

“It started with our artistic director, Paul Vasterling. When he started creating the outreach ballets, he partnered with a professor from Belmont to actually compose original music for all of our outreach ballets,” said Richardson.

During the performance, the percussion ensemble was placed stage right as the dancers used the rest of the stage.

Dressed in vibrant colors, the dancers performed for 35 minutes and then took part in an interactive educational program after the show. They interacted with the audience as they showed them basic ballet moves.

The second company for the ballet travels around Tennessee for the outreach program performing at elementary schools, middle schools, community centers and churches.

“It’s a great experience for our second company members to get that experience of dancing with live music,” said Richardson.

Krissy Dodge, faculty member at the Nashville Ballet, works closely with the dancers, specifically with the choreography. After the dress rehearsal, she worked with London and the performers to perfect any mistakes made surrounding the cues and music counts.

Dodge’s praise for the percussionists proved how influential a live accompaniment can be for dancers.

“The dancers love working with a live accompaniment. It brings such energy to the theater. It has been an amazing experience for both the ballet and the ensemble,” said Dodge.

Between Comer’s experience of performing with the ballet, Richardson’s fond words on working with the percussion students and the overall atmosphere in the theater Saturday afternoon, the performance proved a collaboration among very different art forms.

This article was written by Meg MacDonald. Photo courtesy of Katherine Seghers.

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