Growing on Me, Part 1.

I am a Virginian.  Not a Nashvillian.

I know, it’s unhip to admit I’m still an outsider, after fourteen years. Especially now it’s Nowville.

nashville-04Maybe Virginians make bad transplants.

But Nashville’s been growing on me, all this time.  There’s the street life around Music Row, for example, where I see guitar guys and women in sky-high-heeled boots leaving work in the early morning when I drive my son to school. And there’s Brown’s Diner, the best, un-unhippest hamburger dive in middle Tennessee.

Browns-Diner-Nashville_0817(photo by Heidi Jewell, from

And there’s OZ, a new performing arts center.  This is some great story. The Ozgener family, first-generation Turkish-Armenian immigrants, moved to Nashville in 1968 and built a world-class cigar company right here.  That’s right, Nashville cigars.

Now they’ve converted their cigar warehouse into an arts performance and installation space, so improbably far outside mainstream Nashville that it’s pretty much within sight of the maximum security prison.  OZ has lured an almost unbelievable program of artists for its inaugural season, launching February.  The big names include Philip Glass, Tim Fain, and Peter Brook. And just look who’s coming first:  Wayne McGregor, the mind-bending British choreographer.

04CHROMA-articleLargeThis is not your ordinary dance guy. He may be the most prominent of the contemporary choreographers using what we (amateurs) think of as classical ballet movements, the classical vernacular, to build very provocative, very innovative dance.  It’s extremely physical, often hyperkinetic, and always — here’s the real treat of it — beautiful to watch. To give a sense of McGregor’s range, he’s the resident choreographer at the Royal Ballet in London, and he’s created work for the Paris Opera Ballet and the New York City Ballet.  He’s also made a Radiohead music video and directed operas, plays, and fashion shows. You might know his work from Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire.

So, yes, Wayne McGregor’s coming to Nashville his own self, as we say, and he’s bringing his company, Random Dance, with him.

ENTITYThe Ozgeners call OZ their thank-you to Nashville for its hospitality to them as immigrants all these years.

I say the thanks should run all the other way.

wayne_mcgregor__random_dance_far_photo_ravi_deepres_4Now, that’s how to be a transplant.

See the full season and buy tickets (hurry!) at