SALUTE:Celebrating the troops with more than burgers

by Lenise Willis


This year was the first year since college that I was blessed with Memorial Day as a holiday. For the last five years I had honored our troops with my freedom to work. This year, however, I was finally able to celebrate the occasion in traditional American fashion””with cheeseburgers, baked beans, potato salad, sun and good conversation around the outdoor grill.

But then it hit me. As I drove around the neighborhood, and as I took a walk at a nearby park, I witnessed dozens of celebratory cookouts. And I asked myself, were our outings festive in honor of our troops, or simply in honor of a day off from work?

Maybe they can be both. After all, aren’t we paying tribute to our troops and fallen soldiers when we take the time to enjoy our freedom and one another? Well, for those who can’t confidently answer, “of course,” High Point Ballet’s SALUTE: A Tribute to Our Armed Forces offers a second chance to celebrate U.S. bravery.

The three-act show features music from the 1940s and consists of 60 dancers ranging in age from middle school to college, including both pre-professional and professional dancers, some from as far as Chicago and Pittsburgh.

The first act salutes the dance style and music of the World War II era. Dancers will be performing to audience favorites such as “It Don’t Mean a Thing” and “Boogie Woogie Bugle Boy”.

“We go from large ensembles, to couples, to groups of four to six dancersoffering a variety of styles, including a great tap number,” said Artistic Director and Choreographer Gary Taylor. “No one will be able to sit still during these numbers.”

Taylor said that the act is inspired by the U.S.O. clubs and how important entertainment was for the U.S. troops.

“(The choreography) is based off of the styles of jazz, swing and tap during the ’40s and a celebration of entertainment to take the minds off the officers from the stress of war,” Taylor said.

It was the concept of service and sacrifice that inspired the second act. “Act two pays tribute to our military and their families””past, present, and future,” Taylor said.

“It opens to a reverent piece dedicated to fallen soldiers and closes with ‘Journey of Honor,’ Taylor continued. “The narrative (is) of three families who have members called up in the draft and how that simple notice can drastically affect and even change their lives.

“The story shows how each path to freedom demonstrates a different outcome and yet it also demonstrates the unity of the military families as they each cope with the price of freedom.”

The act has a strong story base, which is expressed through the art of contemporary dance and ballet.

“This salute to the sacrifices made by those who serve and their loved ones is followed up by pieces that pay salute”” those who have fought and those who have fallen.”

And, finally, the third act is inspired by the famous military marches of each of our armed forces. It features military anthems and patriotic marches designed to bring the audience to their feet. Taylor describes this salute as a “grand, uplifting, powerful way to end the show,” which he hopes will have everyone standing in salute.

“It’s based off of classical ballet, en pointe,” Taylor continued, “with a celebration of strength, and the beauty of the colors of our flag represented in the stunning costumes.”

Taylor said it took the company 90 days, from March to May, to learn the choreography and prepare for the concert.

I’m not saying that any of us should feel guilty for our cookout gluttony, but while we were stuffing our faces, these guys were truly honoring the holiday by practicing a tribute. The least we could is enjoy it and learn a little more about the era that was marked with so much courage and honor. !


High Point Ballet presents Salute, A Tribute to Our Armed Forces, one night only next Friday, June 6 at High Point Theater, 220 E. Commerce Ave., High Point. Tickets are $19; $16 for students. For tickets and more information call 887-3001 or visit