The Latest
May 29, 2024

Where Every Family Matters

Review: Nashville Ballet’s “Attitude”

Passion, darkness, love and hope leap to life with Nashville Ballet's stellar winter production!

Nashville Ballet presents:
Attitude featuring Sugar + The Hi-Lows (Feb. 9 – 12; All ages)
TPAC’s Polk Theater
505 Deaderick St., Nashville
615-782-4040 •
Remaining show times: Sat 7:30 p.m., Sun 2 p.m.
Tickets: $28 – $68

Nashville Ballet presents one of the best performances in its 31-year history with its production of the succinctly titled Attitude. This modern dance show features live music in both acts, including songs by Nashville-favorite Johnny Cash.

Attitude Part 1: “Sergeant Early’s Dreams”

Attitude comprises two 45-minute pieces. While distinctly different, they perfectly complement each other.

The evening opens with  “Sergeant Early’s Dreams.” Christopher Bruce’s dynamic choreography is invigorating, intriguing and imaginative. It’s a total body, high-energy workout for the nine dancers. With influences of ballet, folk dancing, Irish step dancing and tap in the mix, Bruce has the cast twisting and turning their bodies in unique and unusual spellbinding ways.

A six-piece band performs music by British, Irish and American folk composers (you’ll hear songs ranging from “Barbara Allen” to “Gospel Ship”) which depict a migratory journey from Ireland to America in the 19th century. The musical journey includes themes of hope, loss, love, death, renewal and faith.

The Nashville Ballet cast dances through each element with passion, grace and occasional whimsy that the audience finds charming and heart warming.

Attitude Part 2: “Under the Lights”

Following a 20-minute intermission, Sugar + The Hi-Lows (led by Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs) provide the musical backdrop of mostly Johnny Cash tunes for “Under the Lights.” This ballet made its Nashville Ballet debut in 2014, and it’s even better this time around!

Cash is cool, hence his music resonates loudly today. Sugar + The Hi-Lows deliver the musical goods as they tick through favorites like “Ring of Fire,” “Folsom Prison Blues,” “Jackson” and “I Walk the Line.” 

The dancers perform Christopher Stuart’s emotionally charged choreography with aplomb. Stuart draws from multiple influences. Akin to Cash, he’s not afraid to take risks. The result is an unparalleled work of spectacular, deeply emotional performance art.

Lighting with Attitude

Scott Leathers’ impeccable lighting design strengthens the emotional effect of Stuart’s choreography. This is evident in numbers like the all-male delivery of “Folsom Prison Blues,” brilliantly backlit by an intense red screen.

Further, a giant disco ball adds heightened enchantment to Kayla Rowser and Jon Upleger’s fanciful performance of “I’ve Got You Covered,” a number written by Stroup and Dabbs.

The standout number of the night is “Hurt,” written by Nine Inch Nails’ Trent Reznor. Cash recorded this song at the end of his career (and life). Mollie Sansone is the central figure on stage with the full company backing her. She gives an intense, raw, primal interpretation of the haunting tune. Leathers’ craft takes center stage at the end when a vortex of darkness yanks Sansone out of sight — outstanding!

Attitude is the perfect date night with your significant other on this weekend preceding Valentine’s Day. Furthermore, you can also make it a family affair. It’s a performance that will engage your kids with a true “wow” factor.


Pictured above: Nashville Ballet’s Mollie Sansone performs the “Hurt” number in Attitude. Photo credit: Karyn Photography.

About the Author