Nashville Ballet recently announced 2018-19 season will also celebrate Artistic Director and CEO Paul Vasterling’s 20th anniversary with the company. Below, Vasterling weighs in on the upcoming season and his time with Nashville Ballet.
“Community is at the heart of everything we do at Nashville Ballet, and that really drives all decision making here, including creating a new season,” Vasterling said. “Progress and evolution are a necessary constant in the arts just as they are within our community, so it’s important to everyone at Nashville Ballet to foster a sense of connectedness through our work.”
The upcoming season provides something for everyone, including classic titles, contemporary pieces, collaborations, and new works, says Vasterling. Opening the 2018-19 season is the well-known title, Swan Lake. Last performed by the ballet in 2014, this new production will highlight new production elements and the progress the ballet has made since.
“For Swan Lake this season, one of the biggest surprises for audiences will be the phenomenal progression of the dancers ; each member of our company has continued to develop their technique and artistry in that time,”
Vasterling said. “The Swan Queen and the corps de ballet will also have new costumes, which will only highlight the company’s progression further.”
Seven Deadly Sins is back this season along with Superstitions. Seven Deadly Sins features choreography from company member Christopher Stuart and music by Nashville singer-songwriter collective Ten out of Tenn. Superstitions is choreographed by Jennifer Archibald and features music composed by local artist Cristina Spinei.
A gala celebrating Vasterling’s tenure with Nashville Ballet will feature a collection of classical and contemporary works honoring Nashville Ballet’s past and celebrating the future.
“There are few things more satisfying than when a ballet has touched someone so deeply that they approach me afterward to discuss it,” Vasterling said. “Whether it’s to tell me that it made them cry or it changed their way of thinking, it’s truly affirming to know that the art we’re creating at Nashville Ballet has power. Being an active witness to the trajectory that a dancer’s career can take is also one of the most rewarding components of my role. There are dancers that have come through Nashville Ballet and spent their entire careers here, and regardless of the path they take after retiring, I really believe that they carry what Nashville Ballet stands for out into the world in all that they do.”
Back for the holiday season is Nashville’s Nutcracker. Like other titles this season, this production will show the progression and advancement of the company.
“Audiences can really expect to be surprised by changes within the company and casting as we continue to grow. Beyond that, the beauty of ballet is that it is so rich with layers that each time you see a performance you take away something new,” Vasterling said.
Vasterling recently participated in a fellowship with The Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University, which was started by Jennifer Homans, author of the book “Apollo’s Angels.”
“In the book, Homans makes the controversial, albeit somewhat truthful, statement that ballet is dead. Homans posits that to resurrect the art from this stagnant place of focusing solely on the movement, ballet needs more ideas. It’s that belief that the Center for Ballet and the Arts was founded upon, so intellects and artists from various avenues of expertise are invited to come and work on projects that align with that ideology,” he said.
Through his fellowship, he was invited to work on a few ideas for narrative ballets, one of which is the world premiere of Lucy Negro Redux. Vasterling stated that “imparting more ideas into ballet and highlighting the humanity of each performance” was one of the biggest takeaways from his fellowship.
“Our community is an integral part of all that we do at Nashville Ballet so my fellowship really encouraged me to continue speaking through my work on these very relevant topics that are a part of each of our lives,” he said.
Lucy Negro Redux is based on the book by Nashville poet Caroline Randall Williams. This story explores “the mysterious love life of literary great William Shakespeare through the perspective of the illustrious “Dark Lady” for whom many of his famed sonnets were written.”
“A board member, Laura Cooper, gave me the book ‘Lucy Negro Redux.’ I picked it up one day, and it was enthralling. I immediately knew that this book had to be brought to life. I contacted Caroline and we talked at length as to whether or not I was the right fit to take on this project. She shared some incredible insights into the story and into why she felt I was so well-suited to tell it. I met Rhiannon Giddens through Caroline and her mother Alice Randall,” Vasterling said. “We shared the details of the project with her, and she thought it was extraordinary. So she found time in her schedule to be a part of it.”
The season will conclude with Modern Masters, showcasing works such as The Ben Folds Project, Duo Concertant, The Lottery, and Bloom. The Ben Folds Project, choreographed by Vasterling, returns home after the piece’s critically-acclaimed Kennedy Center debut in 2017.
Our final question for Vasterling: What would you say to someone who is coming to see a performance by the Nashville Ballet for the first time?
“I would tell someone who is coming to see a performance by Nashville Ballet for the first time to forget what you think ballet is, to put all those preconceived notions aside, and come into the performance with an open mind. Let the performance wash over you and allow it to speak to you in a way that is personal and exclusive only to you.”
Current Nashville Ballet season ticket holders can renew their packages now by calling (615) 297-2966 x710. New season ticket packages are available online here. Individual tickets will go on sale to the public July 1.