Theater should inspire wonderment. That's the view at Tennessee Shakespeare Company, an artistic organization dedicated to bringing new life to William Shakespeare's words. Each of its productions aims to burrow beneath the play's familiar surface, finding deeper explorations into psychology, government, and philosophy. This approach brings new life to the timeless works—TSC's Macbeth, for instance, highlighted the civilian cost of civil war, while an all-female Julius Caesar embodied "a bold new way to look at honor, womanhood, and power," according to The Commercial Appeal. That same sense of exploration is extended to contemporary pieces. Once a year, the company members hang up their iambic pentameters to produce the Southern Exposure festival featuring new works from the region.
The consortium of professional instructors at DanceSmiths Ballroom Dance Studio shepherds students of all ages and skill levels through lessons that span the style spectrum. Low-pressure private sessions allow enthusiastic teachers to fine-tune individual students' techniques and form, using their expert eyes and mechanical dancing shoes preprogrammed to do the Charleston. Patrons can learn how to cavort through classic waltz and fox-trot romps or swivel through the modern steps of salsa, swing, or samba. For dancers hoping to hoof it up in a social setting, the group practice parties provide a one-night extravaganza of instruction, demonstrations, and amateur firewalking.
Germantown Performing Arts Centre hosts performances by music, theater, and dance troupes from around the world, holds community events and enriching educational programs. During Superstars of Dance with Ballet Grand Prix, a bevy of blockbuster ballerinas collected from American Ballet Theatre, Mariinsky Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, and the New York City Ballet will perform works by Balanchine and selections from Le Corsaire and Don Quixote. Connoisseurs who prefer a modern take on traditional tutus and tip-toe traipsing can patiently watch the calendar count down to April 9, which is when the Spanish Compania Nacional de Danza take the stage. Led by choreographer Nacho Duato, the highly trained contemporary ballerinas twist themselves into eye-surprising positions that spell out the answers to this year's SAT. With today's deal, you can buy multiple Groupons and bring along a group of unsuspecting friends to your choice of performances.
Fitness, grace, confidence: at Ultimate Ballroom, instructors guide students toward all three through different types of dance, including fox trot, tango, and salsa. The seasoned dance teachers not only lead private and group social-dancing lessons tailored to individual skill levels but also coach competitors and choreograph wedding dances.
For the fourth race on its 2012 tour, the American Drag Racing League returns to Gateway Motorsports Park's 1/8-mile drag strip for the first time since 2010. Piloting dragsters separated into seven all-professional racing classes, from Top Sportsman to Pro Extreme, drivers rocket down the track so quickly that they finish each race younger than when they began. The SuperCar Showdown—a new feature on the 2012 circuit—pits the latest consumer automobiles against one another in no-holds-barred drag race free from the usual handicaps, performance restrictions, and rules against fiddling with rival drivers' preset radio stations. After reopening under the helm of former Indy driver Curtis Francois, Gateway Motorsports Park has stepped up its devotion to motorsports of all kinds, looking beyond the drag strip to fill its amphitheater-style seats with fans of everything from hot rods to world-class stock cars.
The interactive exhibits and programs compiled by the Pink Palace Family of Museums reinforce a mission that has stayed constant for 80 years: to "inspire people to learn how history, science, technology, and nature shape the Mid-South." Attached to Clarence Saunders' mansion built in the 1920s, the museum's permanent exhibits take an eclectic approach to chronicling the past, revealing everything from ancient fossils to contemporary southern history. Inside, visitors can chart the history of Memphis from the early Spanish explorers through the Civil War or walk through a replica of Saunders' original Piggly Wiggly—the country’s first self-service grocery store, and even see a shrunken head. Global adventures are chronicled on a four-story screen at the CTI-IMAX theater, and the Sharpe Planetarium explores the cosmos from the comfort of a 130-seat theater.
Traveling to east Memphis, one can discern the natural side of the Pink Palace Family of Museums. Lichterman Nature Center encompasses 65 acres of lush gardens filled with native wildflowers, trees, and wildlife. The center combines self-guided nature walks with plant sales and educational activities to expose visitors to the natural world.