World-renowned cellist Yo-Yo Ma was happy to play "second fiddle" to a Memphis Performing Arts student.
Hours after appearing at a concert in Memphis Ma bubbled with enthusiasm in promoting innovative arts programs in Memphis.
Despite all of their diverse forms, when music and dance intertwine the possibilities of creating magical moments for an audience are boundless.
That's why even for the classical music superstar, an appearance on stage at Colonial Middle School's performing arts center in east Memphis proved to be exhilarating for himself as well as the hundreds of appreciative students in attendance.
"You see how exited the kids get and when people get excited, they get curious," Ma said. "They get motivated and they get passionate."
In an hour-long program, featuring Ma first playing humble sideman with members of the Memphis Symphony Orchestra, the emphasis was clearly on music and dance - from Hip-Hop, to Flamenco to a ballet performed by 10 dancers chosen from Shelby County Schools.
But, for one of those dancers, 13-year old, T.J. Benson, a student at Highland Oaks Middle, a once in a lifetime collaboration with Ma as his accompanist was stunning.
Having only met Ma for one rehearsal on Monday, the duo performed a version of "Jookin'" that was taken in part from a video Ma made which featured "Lil" Buck, (aka Charles Riley), a former student at Carver High School, who himself has reached heights as a professional dancer.
It was left to the great Ma to musically follow the passion of Benson's swan dance movements.
"Is he gliding? Is he quivering? Is he dying? Is he in trouble?," Ma questioned. "I'm trying to kind of read where all the nuances of what he maybe trying to express."
"I was just into the dance," Benson said. "Sometimes, I connected with him like with the music, and I just kept on moving with the flow. The flow and the moves kept on flowin'.
The show was an example of how great teaching plus passionate learning can create innovative arts programs. Even the worldly musician was impressed by his experience in the Bluff City.
"Look at all the music that was invented here," Ma said. "Memphis is a great cultural city and everybody to come together and work together that's what makes it special."
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