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Dancer With An Attitude

The Four Seasons: Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

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I love a dance company who takes the time to embrace all audience members. Atlanta Ballet did just that this weekend at the Cobb Energy Center.

This company has launched their 2011/2012 season. There is nothing more exciting than dance with a live orchestra and conductor Martin West accompanied by violin soloist Lisa Morrison and Charlie Whittaker on harpsichord, joined the Atlanta Ballet for “The Four Seasons”.

The central figure is played by John Welker. He moved through the seasons of his life as dictated by the iconic score by Antonio Vivaldi. In each phase of maturity, he is confronted by defining female figures. At first glance, the choreography by James Kudelka is classical. You think it’s going to be an easy movement interpretation of the music. However, the further in we travel, the more interesting, humorous and unexpected it gets.

In “Spring”, Welker is paired with soloist Peng-Yu Chen. Their duet is smooth with inverted daredevil lifts. A male quartet join them onstage moving one by one creating tableaus. It is striking when some of the women join the duet and just simply walk en point with wilted torsos.

In “Summer”, our central figure is joined by Christine Winkler. She lunges and slowly circles him almost like a cat stalking her prey. When they finally connect, it turns into a fast and precise, sexy, allegro duet. They moved in and out of more rich complicated lifts. The movement almost seems in retrograde when he slides her backwards at an angle. They are electrically connected. The dirty secret is that these two performers are married in real life. Their chemistry translates on stage as it does in life.

We move into “Fall”. An en dedans pirouette with the second arm being left behind is broken by a gentle version of the twist. A group of ballerinas cross the stage by bourrée en tournant in fourth position. Tara Lee emerges as the new female soloist. Three men toss her to each other. This quartet includes partnering that involves unisex lifts and lovely jumps to rolls on the ground. Elements such as these aren’t seen in classical ballet often. John McFall, the artistic director, joins the piece at this point. What a pleasure to see him with his dancers. At the end Lee is left shivering center stage.

I felt the temperature drop as the “Winter” movement encroached.

In this section, Welker, now in a long coat, seems older and more protective of himself. Being bullied by another man, the interaction turns into a polite brawl. Three mature dancers, including McFall, joined the action. I just couldn’t take my eyes off them. Our central character dances his final moments being watched and cared for by the fourth important female character.

The second piece “Eden/Eden” choreographed by Wayne McGregor CBE with music by Stephen Reich, couldn’t have been more different than the first. It has a science fiction, futuristic, androgynous feel, like test tube babies crawling out of the primordial muck. I was reminded of the creature in the 2009 Adrien Brody movie “Splice”. I have to give a giant curtsy to Ursula Bombshell, the costume designer. She donned the dancers in nakedness complete with bald caps. Flesh colored panties are simple but perfect for this technological evolutionary tale. The strange serpentine movement was highlighted by the ripples in the musculature of these elite athletes. This is a great example of how costumes can enhance the choreography, and the choreography was exciting and cutting edge all by itself.

At the beginning, the stage looks like a black hole. We hear computerized music and speaking. Video footage emerges out of the black displaying two naked torsos moving together. Latin words like “Cancri”, “Corpus”, “Capriorni” and “Intellectus” appear on the screen. A very alien-like figure rises from the floor bathed in a very stark white light. She is then joined, in the same manner, by eight other dancers. A tree lowers from the heavens. The choreography is electrically charged, abrasive and sexy and pushes these dancers to the edge of what’s humanly possible. The movement was an even playing ground; it allowed the male dancers to be as articulate with their bodies as the women.

McGregor is a movement inventor of the highest grade, and there is no vocabulary to describe how I felt watching this piece. I left my body in seat R 1, transcended my reality, and became lost in a world of indeterminate time and space. I thank Atlanta Ballet for this unexpected adventure.

As a dance lover, I tend to gravitate towards companies of a more contemporary nature, so I hesitate, ever so slightly, before a ballet performance. Once again, Atlanta Ballet did not disappoint, and gave something for everyone to enjoy. I am honored to be part of the experience and am very excited to fill a seat for the rest of the season.

Atlanta Ballet
2011/12 season

Nutcracker
December 8-24
Fox Theater

The Twyla Tharp Project
“The Princess and the Goblin”
February 10-19, 2012
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

Snow White
February 18, 2012
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

Man In Black
March 23-25, 2012
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center

New Choreographic Voices
May 18-20, 2012
Alliance Stage at the Woodruff Arts Center

Dancer With An Attitude

The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee

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“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee

The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
Beginning 1.31.15

There are these moments among skilled choreography and seasoned performances where you lose yourself. If you happen to be experiencing this, you will most probably hear a gasp or a groan. There is no language adequate to tell the tale later because they affect you in a primal, visceral way. These moments transcend language and are too intimate to describe. To those of you who don’t frequent the many exquisite dance events happening around the world today… this is the reason to see dance live! The bitter sweet dichotomy can perpetuate a frustration, that the experiences can’t REALLY be translated to anyone who wasn’t at the dance performances, sharing the adventure. These feelings lead to the question, “How do we bottle this?”

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Dancer With An Attitude

Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”

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photo : Chris Carder
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The Lucky Penny has become a cornerstone of Atlanta’s cutting edge dance and technology. Dearly Departures: A new dance by Blake Beckham and her impeccable motley crew of technicians and performers, at Georgia Tech’s DramaTech Theater, have created yet another night of artistic excellence

The little black box theatre, more of a trapezoidal space is reminiscent of the old train stations lined with a long illuminated bench Stage Left, an “Old Skool” telephone booth Stage Right and a Split Flap display board hanging above. The experience begins with a Rolodex scrolling sound as the Split Flap illustrates very slow, movie style, credits. This sets a mellow tone, allowing the audience to hunker down in our seats and get comfortable. The lights dim then flicker off, in a “cool” and unusual manner, foreshadowing the unexpected and poetic experience to come.

The clickety clack of the display is overtaken by ambient music and lights go up on dancer Alisa Mitten. She smoothly makes her way around with long relaxed movements, allowing her fingertips to initiate her locomotion. As we watch, the Split Flap is feeding us contemplative ideas to ponder as the action unfolds.

“Away… Way back… Go… Go… Go back.” And a repeated mantra of “Begin again” & “Begin & End.”

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Dance

T. Lang: A Woman Searching

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The raw space at the Goat Farm is set up with four see through scrims hanging from the ceiling, situated in a square, to separate the performers from the audience.  Seats are arranged in the round, meaning all the way “a round” where the action was about to take place.  The first question of the evening is to figure out which side of the room we want to experience this evening from.  Obviously, there is no right or wrong… just questions.

On June 7th, I found myself asking a lot of questions at the World premiere of T. Lang Dance Company’s  performance of Post Up.  The cast of nine extraordinary women were uniformly exposed in white bras and cherry red leggings.   The uniformity brought to mind a complex woman or many women in a similar situation, perhaps battered or in a prison.  An inquiry later enhanced by zig-zagged projections on the fabric we were looking through.  The tastefully sparse costumes highlighted the performers’ beauty and I was reminded of how majestic women are, in all iterations, with different curves, hair lengths, textures and hues of skin.

The tone in this screened in cage was desperate, sad and played with themes of struggle and vulnerability but through it all a feminine strength became apparent.  Not only through the athleticism of these prodigious artistic athletes but in an instinctual comradery that naturally exists between woman, especially at times of crisis.

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