Big Boi at the Ballet, When Two Worlds Collide
A Big Chance, Hip Hop and Ballet Collide
Prokofiev, Tchaikovsky…OutKast. Yes, Big Boi Antwan Patton, one half of the six-time Grammy award winning hip-hop group, has joined the ranks of musicians whose beats turn tutus. April 2008, Atlanta Ballet shattered tradition when Artistic Director John McFall collided two worlds in creating the new ballet, “Big.”
“The collaboration is all about expression, and what we’re doing is translating my music into the form of ballet,” explains Big Boi. “It’s fun. It’s freaky. It’s definitely something people will be blown away by.”
Despite his lack of ballet knowledge, Big Boi was game for the project when McFall approached him to be a part of his new project. “You wouldn’t think someone of that star status would be that open to other ideas about how to interpret the music,” says McFall, but it’s the meshing of the two styles that created an infectious heat.
“The open mindedness that comes with it is really cool,” says dancer Courtney Necessary. “Especially on Big Boi’s part, to take a big risk on such a different form of art.” With hip-hop finding an epicenter in Atlanta, Georgia, McFall says that the style has long been a voice for the area. Yet the rest of the season includes classics like “Romeo & Juliet” and “Cinderella.” Why stray so far from fantasy? “I look at hip-hop as being an American fairytale because it tells all kinds of stories that are relevant in our time and in our community,” McFall notes. Maybe the music, but not the movement typically associated. “It’s absolutely not hip-hop choreography; that’s the last thing in the world I would have considered doing.”
A fresh track from Big Boi’s solo album, to be released this summer, premiered as the ballet’s finale, choreographed by Lauri Stallings. Audiences for both ballet and the band united for the six performances at the Fox Theater in Atlanta, Georgia. “Whether they come for the ballet or for the music,” says Necessary, “I think they will appreciate both equally after seeing them work together.”
Five Questions To Big Boi
What attracted you to the project?
I wanted to see how the motion and the movement went with my music, and they nabbed it perfectly.
What was the process of selecting the songs?
Lauri Stallings and I picked out the music together. She is a very creative girl and is very serious about her craft, and we talked things over. Everything just clicked. It’s all art, baby.
What were the differences between preparing for the ballet as opposed to a concert?
[For the ballet,] I’m on stage with 40 people, not including my band, which has 10 members. And it’s a wild show, man…feeling the dancers behind you and feeling the rhythm and really being aware. It’s fun though. The movement is so in sync.
What has been the best part?
I closed the show with a brand new song from my solo album, “Sir Luscious Left Foot – The Son of Chico Dusty,” that’s coming out in July. I couldn’t wait to see it on stage. To see the work that went into translating this new song that’s never been performed on a stage before was very moving.
Would you do this kind of collaboration again?
Hell yea! They’re already talking about maybe taking it around the U.S. and possibly Europe, so that everyone can get the experience.