Nashville Ballet’s Johnny Cash tribute returns with performance by Sugar + The Hi-Lows

Jan 27, 2017


NASHVILLE, Tenn. (RHIANNON GILBERT) -- Dancers from the Nashville Ballet are gearing up for their second performance series paying tribute to the life and songs of country legend Johnny Cash.

The performance, entitled “Under The Lights” is returning after its debut in 2014. Set to run Feb. 9-12, it is part of the lineup for the ballet’s annual winter series, “Attitude,” which seeks to highlight Nashville’s creative arts scene by teaming up with local musicians. Returning this year to perform Cash’s songs is Nashville-based neo-rockabilly band Sugar + The Hi-Lows.

The band’s singer/songwriters, Amy Stroup and Trent Dabbs, spoke to WMOT about their collaboration with the ballet.

“I think there’s an elevated level of art, all around,” Stroup said. “You’ve got the excellent dancers of course of the Nashville Company, and I think any time two art forms come together you’ve got that synergy that just lifts a piece. So you’re getting to see a visual live, and music live. It’s almost like you’re inside a music video, if you will, if there were dancers all around you.”

“It’s very surreal,” Dabbs. “And I also like it because the last time we played this, my father had never been to a ballet, so I love the idea of converting people to an art form they’re not familiar with, and this will do that. It did it for me.”

The pair took a personal approach to Cash’s music that provides a heartfelt narrative to dance creator Christopher Stuart’s choreography.

“Johnny and June were such an interesting couple because they were both creatives,” Stroup said. “So diving into this project we really got behind the scenes into not only their love relationship, but their creative relationship, and that’s something that you get to see brought to life even visually…The Nashville dancers have done a great job of bringing the emotion behind the songwriting to life into the performance.

“Under The Lights” is returning by popular demand, and Sugar + The Hi-Lows are looking forward to doing the show again.

“I couldn’t have been happier with the last performance that we had,” Dabbs said. “With the dancers and with the players that we had onstage with us. It actually makes sense that’s it’s happening again.”

The “Attitude” series will take place at TPAC’s Polk Theatre. For more information about the show, visit