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Monday, April 7, 2008

Big Boi + Ballet = Another Reason to Move to Atlanta

posted by on April 7 at 11:31 AM

This I want to see:


[This Thursday night], at the fittingly grandiose, neo-Moorish Fox Theater, Mr. Patton [Big Boi of OutKast] will perform with the Atlanta Ballet, the first major collaboration between a hip-hop luminary and a ballet company. The name of the production, of course, is “big.”

A few are grumbling with sublimated miscegenation (kind of like the shit Joni Mitchell and Mingus took when they started playing together), but most partisans for both art forms have restrained themselves from the easy criticisms, partly because neither Big Boi nor choreographer Lauri Stallings (her major influence is Israeli dance badass Ohad Naharin) are meek, cloying artists. They’re both stubborn, smart, sometimes baffling, and kind of fearless—going into the project, neither knew much about the other’s medium:

… before “big” Mr. Patton’s ballet experience began and ended with an elementary school outing to see “The Nutcracker,” and the new work’s choreographer, Lauri Stallings, had never listened to hip-hop.

But Stallings fans say her choreography has always been suited to hip hop, even if she didn’t know it.

… unlike some fusion ballets of the past, the dancers will not be performing half-baked hip-hop moves but Ms. Stallings’s earthy, syncopated choreography, which, as the company veteran Christine Winkler said, in some ways works better with hip-hop than with classical music.

For the hip hop scene’s part:

Professor Dyson, echoing several young Atlanta artists who weighed in on the project, sees in “big” an opportunity for hip-hop to re-examine some of its more self-destructive tendencies, including violence and “the blitzkrieg of misogyny that passes for commentary on gender.” If anyone could get hip-hop to open up, he said, it would be one of the adventurous stars of OutKast.

But maybe not open up too much:

So when John McFall, the ballet’s artistic director first approached Mr. Patton with the idea of a collaboration, the rapper said, “I’m down to try anything once.” (Except, he later added, wear tights; he may be a progressive, but he’s still got some street cred to maintain.)

The obligatory YouTube trailer of the project (sadly, the preview is all soft numbers like “Church.” I want to see what they’ll do with “The Rooster” or “Bombs Over Baghdad”):

Other Big Boi cuts will include: “Morris Brown” from the Idlewild soundtrack, “The Rooster” from Speakerboxxx, “Bombs Over Baghdad” from Stankonia, “Kryptonite” from Big Boi Presents…Got Purp? Vol. 2, and a few others.

We can only hope for a tour. The Moore and the Paramount usually present those kind of traveling shows, but this action should rightly go to Peter Boal, the young New York City Ballet dancer-cum-PNB director who’s turned on the voltage at his hallowed company in the last couple of years.

Anyway, here’s hoping. And here’s an email address for PNB, should you want to start stumping for the Big Boi/ballet in Seattle. Or at least some collaboration with Blue Scholars, Common Market, and the rest of the Seattle crew:

RSS icon Comments



Posted by boobasax | April 7, 2008 11:39 AM

I think the ballet elements are really interesting with the hip hop, but there is a whole lot of modern movement in there that makes the collaboration seem a lot less juxtaposed.

Posted by Carollani | April 7, 2008 11:40 AM

Hahaha! What a bizarre idea. Let's do more fusions. I want to see a collaboration between, say, Notion and Thai Food.

Posted by Katelyn | April 7, 2008 11:41 AM

There is absolutely no reason to visit that shithole of a town.

Posted by shitlanta sucks | April 7, 2008 11:44 AM

@ 4: Really? I hear Atlanta has been coming alive over the past few years—rock scene, hip hop scene, dance and theater scene, film scene, one of the more progressive southern cities for race and gay culture and politics, business investment, strip clubs you can drink in, the works... What's your beef?

Posted by Brendan Kiley | April 7, 2008 11:58 AM

Why go to Atlanta when you can just rent Center Stage?

Posted by spencer | April 7, 2008 11:59 AM


You should totally move there and find out!

Posted by Mr. Poe | April 7, 2008 12:02 PM

@6 I LOVE THAT MOVIE. Not joking.

@5 That's what I heard, too. And Adam over at Amateur Gourmet has been singing its culinary praises, too...

Posted by Katelyn | April 7, 2008 12:03 PM

So can we put Atalanta ahead of Seattle in terms culture now?

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 7, 2008 12:06 PM

I just visited Atlanta for the first time in November. Very cool city, but with a much worse overdevelopment problem than Seattle has. And zero modern dance scene that I could find. Ballet and hip hop? Sure. Modern? Nope - or at least it's completely invisible. I found a couple of presenters, but only one local modern company (that works in integrated dance, aka with different levels of ability/disablity), and no studios that offer modern classes. It's a pity, because otherwise I really enjoyed the city.

Posted by genevieve | April 7, 2008 12:12 PM

Title should read:
"Ballet company goes to extreme lengths to target new audiences."

Gotta try something new, the stoggy old people will not be filling those seats forever.

Posted by Cato | April 7, 2008 12:16 PM

Those dancers are way hotter than music video girls.

Posted by Dougsf | April 7, 2008 12:26 PM

@ #12: so, so right. That there is reason enough to move to Atlanta.

Posted by dancefan | April 7, 2008 1:00 PM

Looks sexy, I like it.

Posted by tabletop_joe | April 7, 2008 1:04 PM

Hell, the dancers in the pink and white shirts alone are reason enough to move to Atlanta....

Do we even have any thin women here?

Posted by Gomer Bolstrood | April 7, 2008 1:18 PM

Gomer, venture out of your house, possibly your neighborhood and experience the anorexic hanging with the obese on cap hill.

Posted by Bellevue Ave | April 7, 2008 1:25 PM

As a Slog fanatic, Seattle fangirl, and six-year Atlanta resident, I declare myself arbiter on this one.

Seattle's still better. Like, a lot.

Ironically, I won't be attending because I'll spend the weekend taking in Seattle/Portland entertainment--Colin Meloy is in town on Thursday, and My Effortless Brilliance plays the Atlanta Film Fest on Saturday.

(Have you seen our "alt-weekly"? Motherfucking Creative Loafing. I've seen maybe three paper copies of The Stranger in my life and I totally eschew Creative Loafing. Ugh.)

Posted by Christin | April 7, 2008 1:32 PM

As a former Atlantan, who visits annually, Seattle is MUCH better. Atlanta is a very materialistic city that still has a LOT of race issues. And even though they have MARTA (subway), their massive highways are over-burdened with climate-killing SUVs. Lastly, their crime rate is one of the worst in the country.

Posted by Fitz | April 7, 2008 2:09 PM

Re .."But Stallings fans say her choreography has always been suited to hip hop, even if she didn’t know it.."-

Just as Emily Dickinson couldn't have known that all her poems could be sung to the the tune of "The Yellow Rose of Texas", one supposes... ^..^

Posted by herbert browne | April 7, 2008 2:58 PM

Ok, this sounds (and looks) great. But take a look at Atlanta Ballet's season next year: Swan Lake, The Nutcracker, Don Q, Snow White, Dracula, Firebird. zzzzzzzzzzzz. This Big Boi ballet seems more of an anomoly than the beginning of an edgy trend in programming.

Posted by Rebecca | April 7, 2008 3:22 PM

Atlanta sucks. Talk about sprawl; I think ECB would have an embolism upon arrival.

Posted by laterite | April 7, 2008 3:25 PM

I'll be there, visiting family, and will definitely go!

The arts need young people to get involved; unfortunately, new and exciting projects don't tend to attract audiences like the old standards do. Hopefully projects like this can inspire a new trend. Props to Atlanta Ballet!

Posted by Emily | April 7, 2008 5:21 PM

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