Nashville Ballet prepares its seductive sacrifice

She stands in the center of the shadows, her body writhing like a serpent caught in a trap. Bursts of light flash darkly around her, enhancing the details of her erratic gestures into stop-motion movements. Thunderous booms reverberate through her body, coursing along her veins until the beat of her heart becomes one with the sound. Her hair shoots out electrically as she tosses her head about, and many hands slither across her scantily-clad body, pressing against her skin as a mass of nearly-naked men lifts toward the gods.

Patrons can expect many more equally seductive and savage scenes throughout the Nashville Ballet’s upcoming performance of Igor Stravinsky’s Rite of Spring and Firebird. The special doubled-billed production will also be paired with live music from the Nashville Symphony.

“You can feel the music, and it just drives you,” company dancer Mark Nimmo says of performing with live orchestral accompaniment, “especially when it’s stuff that’s not classical yet is really intense dance wise. We’re slamming ourselves into the ground, and it’s very physically demanding.”

“With Rite of Spring, you can feel the energy of the dancers around you, and you know that it’s intense,” says ballet master Tim Yeager, elaborating on the dancers’ experience in the piece. “The audience experience is amazing. You’ll sit on the edge of your seat the whole time as the energy from the dancers brings you into it so much you’re almost dancing with them on stage.”

Written three years apart from each other specifically to be choreographed, both Rite of Spring and Firebird illustrate Stravinsky’s fascination with telling thematic story versus a plot-driven one.

“With a story-ballet, you know what’s going on,” Yeager says, “with something like Rite of Spring, you have to show the cycle of life. That’s the intent of the choreography; whether it is plowing a field, sowing seeds, choosing a sacrifice, that’s what you have to portray.”

That cyclical storytelling is the focus of both of Stravinsky’s pieces as Rite of Spring centers on ancient pagan ritual sacrifice and fertility rites, while Firebird features an otherworldly being descending to earth to teach mankind about love when humanity is at its worst.

“With both ballets, if you end the ballet and then open the curtain back, you could restart the ballet,” Yeager says. “Both would just happen again. Those themes allow the audience to interpret the ballets as they will.”

Nimmo loves performing pieces like Rite of Spring and Firebird because of the theatricality involved. “I did theater when I was younger,” he says, “but I didn’t feel fulfilled. I wasn’t able to express myself enough in theater. With dance, you can still be theatrical. You’re still able to be an actor while using your entire body, so it’s a little more of a challenge. Rite of Spring, in particular, is not like normal ballet where things are very up and light. It is very heavy and very grounded.”

Members of the GLBT community can see Rite of Spring and Firebird as part of Nashville Ballet’s Night OUT at the Ballet performance event on Saturday, April 28. Beginning at 5:30 p.m., attendees will have the chance to meet some of the dancers while enjoying food and wine downtown at the Rymer Gallery. Then, following a short walk to TPAC’s Jackson Hall, they will view Firebird at 7:30 p.m.

During the 20 minute intermission, dessert and champagne will be available in an exclusive area for the special patrons. After intermission, Night OUT attendees will get to see Rite of Spring in all of its steamy, sensual glory. After the show, they can take their ballet tickets to PLAY Dance Bar free admission or to Suzy Wong’s for a buy one get one appetizer.

Night OUT at the Ballet tickets can be purchased for a discounted price using the special promotion code NBNIGHTOUT. Right of Spring and Firebird run April 27-29. Tickets can be purchased at

Photo by Margo Amala on Unsplash

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