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Art-Pop And Pointe Shoes: Meet The Band Collaborating With The Louisville Ballet

Sam English

YASSOU, a six-piece, post-pop band from San Francisco, has a pretty familiar inception story. The band formed during their high school years in Upstate New York. They spent time playing gigs, listening to Radiohead, and then eventually went their separate ways across the country after graduation.

But here’s where their story gets interesting.

After a few years, the full band has gotten back together, and is now in town rehearsing with the Louisville Ballet for their season opener “Stars and Stripes.”

They scored an original composition for artistic director Robert Curran’s new piece “How They Fade” after he saw one of their videos. YASSOU will perform it onstage with the Louisville Orchestra.

The band’s sound is ethereal -- but in a gnawing, unconventional way. Time signatures shift as lead singer Lilie Bytheway-Hoy’s vocals anchor the pieces. Per the band, they are “most often compared to the likes of Radiohead (of course) and FKA twigs.”

It’s not what you’d typically expect from a ballet composition, right? Well, that’s the point.

Julian Muller is cellist for YASSOU and co-composer of the piece, which explores the concept of nostalgia.

“I’ve always been interested in the hybridization of genre,” Muller says. “I play primarily classical music, and you know, that’s definitely kind of a niche world.”

Muller studied at the Cleveland Institute of Music for his undergraduate degree and currently attends the Mannes School of Music in New York City.

He says he thinks in order for classical art forms to appeal to younger audiences, it’s going to take people like Curran who are willing to do something out of the box.

Co-composer James Jackson agrees.

“Ultimately I think it’s the best hope the art world has to get people out and away from their screens,” Jackson says. “Hopefully a few more young people come to this show.”

Muller says combining different art forms doesn’t detract from them individually.

“I think a lot of the time they can augment each other,” he says.

“Stars and Stripes” will open the company’s 65th year, which begins Sept. 9. It’s a mixed repertory program also featuring George Balanchine’s classic “Themes and Variations” and Twyla Tharp’s innovative “In The Upper Room.”

More information is available here.