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New Ballet Ensemble Touted for its Lasting Impact in Tennessee

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May 16, 2016

In a profile for Dance Studio Life magazine, Joseph Carman takes an in-depth look at the philosophies and practices that underpin New Ballet Ensemble & School (NBE) as well as the role of teaching artists in helping the programs flourish. Katie Smythe, founder, CEO, and artistic director for NBE, shares her thoughts on the shifting role of dance education in Memphis, the need for programming that speaks to the communities they serve, and the holistic activities arts organizations can undertake to build relationships with their constituency.

Remarking on the state of dance education when she first began working in Memphis, Smythe notes that it was initially difficult to build support for the program. “African Americans questioned whether the school’s outreach was merely another example of white people telling them what to do—a superimposed mission. And white residents questioned whether black kids in Memphis would be interested in dancing ballet.” However, Smythe continued to be driven by the idea that “reaching for excellence and creating beauty should be the privilege of any child regardless of where they come from.”

Part of NBE’s success stems from its willingness to embrace interpretations of dance that connect with Memphis’ rich cultural and racial history. According to the article, “one of the most popular dances in NBE performances is [Shamar] Rooks’ version of The Dying Swan, an improvised blend of hip-hop, jookin, modern, African dance, and ballet.”

Read the full profile here

About New Ballet Ensemble & School

Founded in 2001, New Ballet Ensemble and School is a Community School of the Arts with a thriving after school dance program in the heart of Midtown Memphis, (Cooper Young).  Children from all over the Mid South fill our studios six days a week, training, rehearsing and exploring varied forms of movement and dance alongside a strong classical ballet curriculum. We serve Mid South schools with in school residencies lasting from one day to the entire year and invest in active community partnerships, reaching audiences of all ages where they are.

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