Arts | December 2015
The husband-and-wife ballet duo of Brandon and Virginia Ramey gear up for a busy winter season
Story by Mike Lee
Photos courtesy Ballet Memphis
Brandon and Virginia Ramey are artists in the strictest sense — ballet being their art form — and they’ve danced for enthusiastic audiences around the globe.
As two of Ballet Memphis’ principal dancers, the pair stands out — not just because of their height, but their unique relationship with each other.
Brandon, at 6’5”, ranks as one of the tallest male ballet dancers in the world and ‘Ginny’ — as she’s known by friends and colleagues — stands 5'10" — tall for a ballerina. What makes them unique in the world of ballet, however, is that they are husband and wife. This dynamic has led to a certain synergy exclusive to the pair.
“It makes things easier because you know each other in so many ways, on so many levels that you can anticipate which makes you both more fluid as a team,” Ginny says.
Ginny, 31, was born in Memphis and grew up in a home where her parents loved classical music, opera, and the theater. At 5 years old, her mother enrolled Ginny in ballet classes at Memphis Concert Ballet where she quickly embraced and loved the dance form.
Throughout elementary school, she spent summers studying ballet and by age 17, in 2001 she joined Ballet Memphis, having graduated early from White Station high school. Ginny was signed to a 40-week contract and took her place in the company of dancers, performing productions around the mid-south, including the stage at the Orpheum.
Brandon’s career began in Framingham, Massachusetts, just outside Boston where he was born. When he was seven, his mother would drop him off at ballet classes where his sister was enrolled and he would watch and eventually mimic the movements of the students. By age 13, he knew he wanted to dance, showing exceptional poise, grace, and control. Realizing that their son was gifted, Brandon’s parents enrolled him in the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet School where, over the course of two summers he took high school credit classes in the mornings and in the afternoon, ballet classes. “To be honest, I always felt awkward because even at 13 I was already 6 feet tall and many thought I’d choose basketball as a career,” Brandon says.
But he still had much to learn and five more inches to grow. At 18, Brandon joined the San Francisco Ballet School, but broke an ankle when he had a bad fall during a landing which sidelined him, and he took two years off.
Having fallen behind the class, he resigned to move on. But he’d been seen and was offered an opportunity to join Ballet Memphis by Dorothy Pugh, CEO and founding artistic director of the company. “We love it here in Memphis,” Brandon says. “We feel we can give more to the community, both in performance and in instruction since we teach ballet as well.”
This month, Brandon and Ginny will reprise their roles as Cavalier and Sugar Plum in the Nutcracker.