Theater Big Boi + Ballet = Another Reason to Move to Atlanta
posted by April 7 at 11:31 AMon
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: email@example.com.