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The New York Times is reporting that Big Boi (of Outkast fame) has decided to collaborate with the Atlanta Ballet Company to produce an interesting mixed show that combines hip hop and ballet.
Mr. Patton and the Atlanta Ballet say they are seeking to expand the horizons of their respective forms, without compromising them. It’s a tall order, and it comes as ballet companies and the hip-hop industry are casting about (not always gracefully) for new directions and new audiences.
I think they’ve taken a really good approach to this too. Instead of trying to adapt the ballet to more traditional hip hop style, they’re letting them retain a lot of artistic freedom. The dancers will do whatever their choreographer comes up with, while Big Boi and other artists wind in between them while performing.
This is beneficial to both the artists and the ballet company. First, Ballet companies and other supposedly high society artsy endeavours often struggle to connect with the common people. They suffer from the misconception just helped spread that they are snooty. Introducing new ways to be relevant to society (especially the local community) will be a huge benefit to them and will hopefully enable them to maintain production. Second, for Big Boi this is yet another notch on his belt of accomplishments. He’s already helped create some of the most original hip hop in the past decade, and he’s also pushed cinematic boundaries with Idlewild. Doing this collaborative ballet, especially if done well, will do much to increase his already stellar reputation.
This may also lead to more performances like this across the country, and if nothing else may expand hip hop’s appeal to a whole new audience.
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.
It’s an interesting thought, that involving hip hop in a female-dominated, higher brow art form could do something to address some of the inherent problems within the art.
To see a small video about the performance, click here.