"Dying Swans" choreographed by Kevin Thomas, Collage dance Collective. © 2016, ns2 photography | http://www.ns2photography.com

Avante Pointe: Collage dance Collective

A special photo project by ns2 photography and Brown Girls Do Ballet featuring Collage dance Collective of Memphis.

It’s a blustery, lonely looking Sunday morning in downtown Memphis. The streets are almost empty, save the thousands at the convention center to audition for the hit reality TV series, The Voice, or those there to play or cheer for volleyball. Extracurriculars are indeed booming in the Bluff City, known worldwide for its love of the arts, in particular music. But the holiest day of the week isn’t reserved for just good and bad song choices or spikes and sets, it’s also a day filled with grand jete’s, Negro spirituals, arabesques, hearty laughs, and more importantly, pointe shoes.

Rise, the yearly winter performance of Collage dance Collective, was indeed that – an artistic ascension of neo and seasoned dancers donning the stage of the Cannon Center for the Performing Arts to the tune of smiles, admiration, and excitement from their audience. The sounds of Robert Glasper to classical music to the rousing and powerful orations of Rev. Martin Luther King, Jr. during his last fateful speech, “I’ve Been to the Mountaintop,” were perfectly chosen, and relevant, albeit foreshadowing. There is indeed a movement – both literal and figurative – among us.

Collage dance Collective was founded in 2006 in New York City by Kevin Thomas, it’s artistic director, and Marcellus D. Harper, it’s executive director. A year later the company made Memphis it’s home, perhaps to the bewilderment of some. Why would anyone leave the dance mecca NYC and head below the Mason Dixon line to the home of two other words starting with the letter B that weren’t ballet, blues and BBQ? As company member Daphne Lee alluded, the bigger question was “Why not?”

Artistic endeavors are usually depicted in their final state, but what happens behind the scenes to get the final product to the audience? Avant Pointe seeks to tell the photographic story of what happens before and behind the curtain during Collage’s performance of Rise on January 24, 2016. It’s a production of more than pointe shoe dye, costumes, and makeup. It’s the performance before the performance.


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