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The Bluebird Cafe Collides With Ballet for Valentine’s Day

The Nashville Ballet partners with Bluebird Cafe for a special performance.

photos courtesy Nashville Ballet

Music and dance often go hand in hand, and the Nashville Ballet plans to showcase that compatibility through its partnership with Nashville’s Bluebird Cafe over Valentine’s Day weekend.

Taking place at the Tennessee Performing Arts Center’s Polk Theater and in collaboration with the Nashville Ballet’s annual contemporary dance series, Attitude, ballet dancers will add their visual intrepretations to the songs of frequent Bluebird performers Victoria Banks, J.T. Harding and Georgia Middleman, who will be seated in the round, singing and telling the stories behind their songs as if they really were at the famous song-sharing venue.

Victoria Banks
J.T. Harding
Georgia Middleman

The theme of the performance, which runs Feb. 12-14, is being called City of Dreams. Bluebird Cafe Chief Operating Officer and General Manager Erika Wollam Nichols says the idea was inspired by Banks’ song of the same name, which was written after the devastating Nashville flood in 2010.

“There’s a definite feeling of energy and possibility in Nashville and people come here with dreams,” she tells Nash Country Weekly over the phone. “People have been sleeping in their cars and coming to Nashville to break into the music business for decades. People feel like this is a place for opportunity and potential. It gets a hold of you and the community is incredible.”

Songwriter J.T. Harding says he found a group of kindred spirits among the choreographers and ballet dancers he met while rehearsing for City of Dreams.

“When I was with the choreographers and the dancers I felt like I was in a room with people that had followed their dreams no matter what it took,” he explains over coffee at Nashville’s Crema. “I think songwriters are the same.”

During City of Dreams, J.T. will be performing three of his No. 1 songs, including Keith Urban’s “Somewhere in My Car,” Kenny Chesney’s “Somewhere With You” and Blake Shelton’s “Sangria,” which he says he’s most excited to showcase.

“At the Bluebird, the audience always sings the chorus, so it’ll be interesting to see if that happens at the ballet and I hope it does,” he says. “I’m also excited to perform that because it’s one of the few fast songs, [and] the dancers will be more animated during that.”

Both J.T. and Erika say they were moved the first time they saw the music put to dance by the ballet.

“It’s very emotional to have songs that you love and then see the physical representation of them,” Erika explains. “It’s not literal, at least what I saw. There’s accents and accentuations and gestures. It’s unexpected and surprising and absolutely perfect.”

She adds that her hope for the collaboration is for the audience to have an emotional experience with each song, just like they would at the Bluebird. Each songwriter is performing with an acoustic guitar, and tables will be set up on the stage, giving the feel of a typical Bluebird performance. “I do think it will have the spirit of the Bluebird,” she says.

“For people here in town, this is an incredible treat and nobody else will get to see this,” she adds. “The point is, this is our thing. It’s going to be incredible and something that I think people from Nashville can look at and feel really proud of—it’s reflecting so much of who we are as a city. For all the people who say they can’t get into the Bluebird, come to this show because it’s going to be awesome and it’s going to have elements of the Bluebird in a magical way.”

J.T. agrees, adding that the collaboration is like nothing he has seen before.

“I’ve been a part of a lot of special things with the Bluebird Cafe, but this one I feel is going to top the list,” he concedes. “I’ve rehearsed with the dancers and it’s simply breathtaking. The way they move and make shapes with their bodies, it’s like something you’ve only seen in a movie. I can’t imagine how hard they have to work but they make it look effortless. It’s very sexy, too, perfect for Valentine’s weekend.”  

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