Ballet de Swamp

by Rick Grant
Undeniably, the down home roots sound of Swamp Cabbage and the professional dancers of the Florida Ballet made strange bedfellows at their multimedia presentation. This arty affair was a benefit for the Florida Ballet last Saturday night.
However, since this was a weird fusion of ballet and roots music, and I dig weird, (the weirder the better) I was compelled to go check out the action. More significantly, Walter is an old friend of mine who played around Jax then moved to New York. Thus, for this old man, the Ballet de Swamp was compulsory.
In the big city, Walter worked his way through many band incarnations and eventually ended up as Richie Havens’ lead guitar player. He toured the world with Havens for 10 years.
A year ago, Havens, now 70 years old, (like me) decided to take some time off to address a health problem. So, Walter was able to devote his full time to touring with Swamp Cabbage–an infectious funky blues roots trio with Walter on guitar, Matt Lindsey on bass, and Jagoda on drums. For the Florida Ballet gig, Jeff Tippins substituted on drums.
Creative dance is art in motion. The dancers of the Florida Ballet were truly professional with dance-molded slim bodies and experienced classical moves. The guys leaped into the air like Michael Jordan in ballet slippers. The femme females moved to the contemporary music with stylish grace. Together, they were one. Ah yes, it was a beautiful thing.
Walter created his album of songs with the dancers in mind. His guitar work vacillated from funky to orchestral. His swampy repertoire included Epiphany, Sugarhouse, Soft Shoe, Requiem, Wind Up Monkey, In Lieu of Flowers, Heed the Call, and Purdy Mouth. The presentation was a hip happening of the highest order.
In these days of massive cutbacks of all government subsidies to non-profits, the arts have been hit the hardest. The fabulous Florida Ballet is no exception. This bastion of live artistic movement has struggled to just exist. Producing fund raisers with such imaginative avant garde shows helps this vital art stay alive.