Nashville Ballet’s Second Company, NB2, is premiering a new piece on Nov. 10.
Gina Patterson’s 72 Steps will premiere at Harpeth Hall School’s Frances Bond Davis Theatre at 2 PM. It’s an important piece inspired by Tennessee’s vital role in the ratification of the 19th Amendment.
The League of Women Voters (LWV) of Nashville and their Perfect 36 Supporters commissioned this piece. 72 Steps explores themes of basic human rights, civic responsibility and the ongoing battle for a more equitable society through the lens of the suffrage movement.
“We always knew the League of Women Voters should be involved in telling the story of the passage of the 19th Amendment. After all, it was our own Carrie Chapman Catt who created the League in February of 1920 before traveling to Nashville in July to secure the vote,” LWV of Nashville project co-chairs Cindee Gold and Debby Gould explain. “After careful consideration, we chose ballet. For many of us, as young girls, ballet was one of the few acceptable outlets we had to express our athleticism and creativity. Dancers are beautiful, but it is their strength that is crucial to their success, as so it is with all women.”
“Given that Tennessee was the 36th and final vote needed for the ratification of the 19th Amendment, the League of Women Voters [of Nashville] felt it was important to mark the upcoming 100th anniversary in a special way. Our choice to commission a ballet was very intentional. Historically, our society has discouraged girls from participating in sports; girls were meant to be delicate, but in dance we could be strong — we could flex our muscles and assert ourselves with a confidence not allowed outside the studio.”
72 Steps will transport the audience to the early 1900s just as the fight for women’s rights is heating up. The work was inspired by history but is a contemporary retelling of the slow flame of the suffrage movement. It shows people struggling to come to terms with one of the most divisive issues of the time. The performance concludes in the days surrounding Tennessee’s legislature’s history making vote and the letter that persuaded young House Representative Harry Burn to support the proposed amendment.
Patterson’s work draws parallels from the past to present in an effort to transcend time. To create the piece, she called the NB2 artists to reflect on the issues that concern the artists the most in today’s society. Then, they wrote letters similar to that one written by Rep. Burns’ mother. She then used the letters and conversations to shape the ballet’s narrative.
“72 Steps endeavors to engage young people on the topic of inequality and illuminate the long and continuing march towards parity. It challenges audiences to contemplate their own beliefs around women’s voting rights and how this extends to broader conversations of equality, whether relating to gender or other discriminations in the name of power and control,” Patterson says. “I hope this ballet will inspire viewers to think about their rights when the time comes to go to the polls, and how they might use their own voices to make a difference in everyday life.”
72 Steps celebrates Nashville’s female creatives. Local composer Jordan Hamlin wrote the score that drives Patterson’s narrative. Designer Jocelyn Melechinsky created the costumes that merge historical influence with allusions to the future.
After the premiere, 72 Steps will enter a limited engagement at Metro Nashville Public Schools as part of Nashville Ballet’s Community Engagement repertoire. This premiere is free and open to the public but limited seating is available. To learn more about 72 Steps or to reserve seating, head to their website.