PRE-View: The Big Muddy Dance Company’s “Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story”
The work is a dynamic collaboration between Enos and six other choreographers, all company members with Big Muddy, and in researching and creating the story of St. Louis’ famous Lemp family, they found the story to be even more intriguing than they had originally imagined.
A lot of different ideas can inspire choreography, and when designed by a great choreographer, dance can express all kinds of thoughts and concepts and emotions. But when it comes to creating a full-evening work, the idea behind the ballet has to be rich enough, embracing enough, to keep an audience leaning forward for a full evening. For their November 16th and 17th performances at St. Louis’ Edison Theatre, The Big Muddy Dance Company has found an exceptionally rich subject for their full-evening presentation of Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story.
Brian Enos knows a lot about what dance can do, and about how to keep an audience leaning forward. His choreography spans eighteen years, and more than thirty original works, for great companies like Houston Ballet, Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, Ballet Met, Nashville Ballet, Thodos Dance Chicago and many more. Since becoming Artistic Director of The Big Muddy Dance Company in 2014, Enos and Big Muddy have been a major force in the rapidly growing recognition of the St. Louis concert dance scene. Under Enos, the Company has made their connection with their home community a continuing focus of both their creativity and commitment, and in Lemp Legends, they explore an iconic St. Louis story in an exceptionally creative way. The work is a dynamic collaboration between Enos and six other choreographers, all company members with Big Muddy, and in researching and creating the story of St. Louis’ famous Lemp family, they found the story to be even more intriguing than they had originally imagined.
We asked Brian to let is in on more of the story behind this project, and the multi-layered process that led to its accomplishment. Here’s what he told us:
… we’re constantly looking for ways we can give back to the city that’s given so much to this organization.
Johnny Nevin: Even as The Big Muddy Dance Company is becoming more and more recognized around the country. you continue to emphasize a real interest in St. Louis — it’s art, its history, its creative heritage — in a lot of your work. The November 16th and 17th performances at the Edison Theatre of Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story takes you on a new venture into the heritage of St. Louis, and the rest of the season builds on that even more. Can you tell us about how your engagement with the city and its history has figured into The Big Muddy Dance Company’s increasing success, and how it led to the creation of Lemp Legends?
Brian Enos: The Big Muddy has always had strong ties to the St. Louis community. The company was founded in 2010 by Paula David and started as a small group of primarily local dancers that were often times performing in peoples living rooms in the very early days. It’s grown very quickly, but we’ve always been keenly aware that none of what has been accomplished in the last eight years would be possible without the amazing and very loyal support of the St. Louis community, and we’re constantly looking for ways we can give back to the city that’s given so much to this organization.
… it felt like the perfect way to kickoff our season.
We’re very much invested in the city and its stories, and it’s not hard to find inspiration in that. For our 2018-2019 Season, we’re focusing all three of our mainstage productions on a different aspect of St. Louis. We’re calling it the “Gateway Season”, named after the famous Gateway Arch (see what we did there?). Our Spring production, “Footnotes”, is focused on local musicians and composers, our January production, “Home Grown”, will feature all St. Louis based dancemakers, and for our first production coming up November 16-17 we’re telling the story of the infamous Lemp family, a local family who really kicked off St. Louis’ beer brewing tradition which is still alive and well today.
The whole concept for the Lemp Legends production started with us wanting to do something that would be able to tie into Halloween, and the Lemp Mansion is considered to be one of the most paranormally active buildings in the U.S. In the early stages of conceptualization we focused on the ghost stories and hauntings surrounding the mansion, but the more research we did the more we uncovered really fascinating details about the family history, the building of their beer brewing “empire”, and a series of tragedies that befell the family, ultimately leading to their fading from prominence in the community, several suicides, and the closing of the Lemp Brewery.
There is so much material to work with (unfortunately, way more than we could ever cover in a 90 minute piece) and they have such a great legacy in the community, so it felt like the perfect way to kickoff our season.
There’s a special magic that I think can be tapped into when you’re creating on dancers who you know intimately as artists, and just as people in general.
Johnny: Lemp Legends is the combined creation of seven choreographers, yourself and six of Big Muddy’s company members — Dustin Crumbaugh, Geoffrey Alexander, CJ Burroughs, Karina Cardella, Brandon Fink and Thomas Jacobson. I worked for many years with the choreographer / dancers of Thodos Dance Chicago (including Big Muddy’s Thomas Jacobson and CJ Burroughs, I’m proud to say) on the legendary New Dances series, and I’ve always felt that there is an extra creative dimension when full production choreography is designed by people who also dance together. You yourself began your choreographic career at companies where you were also a dancer — Houston Ballet and Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Can you tell us more about this unique process and what it means for what the audience gets to see?
Brian: This collaborative aspect of the production is extremely exciting for me. I was very fortunate as a young dancer and choreographer to be given opportunities to create work on the companies where I was dancing (a luxury I’m sure I didn’t fully appreciate the value of at the time). I knew we had a lot of company members who were also interested in choreographing and this seemed like a great project to give them an opportunity to create.
For a while now I’ve wanted to have an in-house choreographic workshop at Big Muddy, but I haven’t found the time in our season to make it happen (yet!). There’s a special magic that I think can be tapped into when you’re creating on dancers who you know intimately as artists, and just as people in general. Being on the other side of the room also gives the choreographers a different perspective, which can help to inform how they approach working with choreographers, repetiteurs, directors, etc. as dancers.
As for my contribution to the production, I’ve been focusing primarily on the overall story and arc of the evening. Making sure all of the components are working to tell the family’s story in a clear and coherent way.
The Big Muddy Dance Company will present Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story at St. Louis’ Edison Theatre (6465 Forsyth Blvd., Saint Louis, MO 63105) on Friday, November 16th at 8pm and on Saturday, November 17th at 8pm. Tickets are available online from the Edison Theatre, ticketing by Vendini or by calling the Edison Theatre Box Office at (314) 935-6543.
PHOTOS: The Big Muddy Dance Company in Lemp Legends: A Ghost Story (All photographs by Gerry Love)