Is there anything Solange Knowles can’t do? The singer-songwriter’s artistic tendrils have reached into the worlds of music, choreography, fashion, film, visual art and more. Now, she’ll add a new genre to her repertoire: ballet composer.
Knowles is making history with a new musical commission from the New York City Ballet. The Grammy Award-winning artist’s involvement makes her the first Black woman and the second woman of color to compose a score of a production by the more than 70-year-old company. Her composition will be debuted at the ballet company’s Fall Fashion Gala on Sept. 28.
Known as simply Solange, she has released four studio albums to date, her first at age 16. Subsequent albums have reached the top 10 in the charts, including a No. 1 spot for her 2016 album “A Seat at the Table” and a Grammy for its lead single “Cranes in the Sky.”
Knowles, who developed a love of ballet growing up in Houston and watching Lauren Anderson, a pioneering Black principal dancer at Houston Ballet, once told the writer Ayana Mathis, “My dream was to go to Juilliard.” So composing for the New York Ballet is a natural progression. In fact, she developed performative dance pieces in recent years, including a piece with live orchestra exclusively staged at Hamburg’s Elbphilharmonie in 2019.
This step into ballet is the latest in a series of adventurous turns by Knowles, 36, who began her career young as a singer and dancer — including with her sister, Beyoncé, in Destiny’s Child. In her art and in the streets, she has also been an activist for Black Lives Matter and other causes.
Knowles shared news of the commission in a tweet in which she said she was “very excited” about the production. Following its September premiere, the piece will also be performed over 10 dates in October 2022 and May 2023.
With choreography from 23-year-old Gianna Reisen, who made her debut with the company aged just 18, the score will be performed by a chamber ensemble made up of members of the City Ballet Orchestra and Solange’s own ensemble.
And it seems Knowles’ collaboration with the NYC Ballet may even be revolutionizing their audiences. The pop star’s stardom saw tickets for the ballet selling at a speed often reserved for pop concerts, as fans flocked to buy them.
The website even implemented a virtual waiting room to avoid a crash due to the number of users at one time.
Many Twitter users chimed in to report that they had bought, or were planning to buy, tickets to the ballet just to hear Solange’s music.
Lido Pimienta chimed in herself, excitedly declaring in all-capital letters that she hoped to “experience it live.” and remarking that “taking over those spaces is so intimidating but we are here…She is the 3rd woman to ever do it!”
After its premiere during the Fashion Gala, the production will be staged later this year on Oct. 1, 8, 11 and 16.