What is the essential element to a thriving metropolis like Atlanta? Culture. What are two important cornerstones to culture? Tradition and art? What art form is steeped in tradition? Dance and more specifically, Ballet. What does every arts organization on the planet need? Money.
Georgia Ballet, and its young dancers, held their annual benefit, The Swirling Soirée, on Saturday night. The event was set up at the Murray Arts Center at Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw, complete with silent auction and ballerinas presenting hors d’oeuvres. Kudos to the company, they got people out of their arm chairs and into the theater. The house was full and off to a lovely start.
The Georgia Ballet School and company have been in the community for 52 years. They provide the students with excellent dance training within a nurturing environment but their professional edge is in league with some of the best ballet academies in the country. The School’s resident company gives advanced students, with promise, apprentice opportunities.
“We believe the pursuit of dance is unmatched in its benefits – aesthetic, physical, and mental. We also stress that a vigorous pursuit of good dancing is of great personal value, no matter what the student’s ultimate occupation.”
The organization was founded by Iris Hensley in 1960. Along with a small faculty, the tradition is carried on by School Director Michele Ziemann-DeVos who has performed with the Pennsylvania Ballet, Des Moines Ballet, New Haven Ballet as well as Georgia Ballet. Artistic Director Gina Hyatt-Mazon and Ballet Master Janusz Mazon are both former Hamburg Ballet principal dancers.
This concert had a little bit for everyone. The young dancers did a fine job of interpreting the choreography of a diverse group of choreographers. The 10 pieces ran the full gamut from the classical duet, Air, choreographed by Janusz Mazon to the contemporary work of choreographer Victoria Norman in Sorellanza to the rock and roll stylings of Battle for the sun by Jennifer Kitchens.
The well placed steps definitely outnumbered the missteps.
The first highlight was On The Town, a collaboration with the Georgia Youth Symphony Orchestra choreographed by Janusz Mazon. The dancing was classical with a jazzy edge, which surprisingly included snapping and dancing in silence. It was performed well and the dancers looked like a saturated jewel toned rainbow in their long tutus and asian inspired tops. The icing on the cake was the live music. It took the work from a nice piece into a more professional arena. The whole package was upbeat and a nice way to start the show. It may well be argued, however, that it could have been a perfect way to end the evening as well.
Another notable classical moment was the duet Air, again choreographed by Mazon and performed by Emilie Mazon and Josiah Savage. What made this piece truly successful were the performers. Both fledglings, no older than 16 and still students of the school, gave us a perfect experience. It was a window into the future of their professional progress. I could suspend reality and imagine them on any of the world’s biggest stages. I would personally like to wish them luck and am looking forward to watching their careers unfold.
Coming from the concert modern world, myself, I am always appreciative of a company that provides more than fouetté turns and tendu derived steps. Georgia Ballet definitely gave us more than pointe shoes.
Sorellanza by Norman was a perfect example. Every articulation of the dancer’s bodies was exaggerated by the bra tops and long tutus. I love dance that involves more than just the arms and legs and the choreography extended itself to running, ripples through the torso and the fingertips. The performers fulfilled the movement and played with dynamic qualities you don’t usually see in a young Ballet Company.
Synecdoche, was a nice complement to Sorellanza. Made by Amanda Ferris, this trio had a comparable feel, the nude color pallet was similar and the dancers were able to move past a classical sensibility. They fit well on the same playbill, and a whole concert playing with parallel themes would be interesting. My only wish is that ballet dancers not be shy, they should take the full plunge and perform these pieces unshod.
The evening ended on a mellow note with Caravan, choreographed by Thomas Shoemaker. Pointe shoes took the stage once again, in a cool jazzy number to music composed by Duke Ellington and performed by Thelonious Monk. Five women in short black unitards worked with a four against one theme. There was a lot of unison, which can be tricky but worked because it fulfilled a core design element.
Georgia Ballet pulled a off a very nice event. The company members are obviously young and a bit wet behind the ears, but I think it’s refreshing to see dancers at the beginning of their careers. Georgia Ballet is doing a wonderful job providing a safe environment where children can go and get excellent training.
The community should know that it takes a very special person to become a professional dancer. A large part of the synthesis of said person is the structure and discipline that ballet provides. This organization is giving its dancers a strong platform from which the students can build and also providing them with a vehicle to jump-start their careers.
Well done Georgia Ballet. Hopefully, the numbers in attendance is indicative of the funds you were able to raise. Georgia, please support this company and make sure you pencil, ink, carve their future performances into your calendars.
The Movement In Stillness – “First Breath” by Travis Magee
“First Breath”, a new exhibition of photography by Travis Magee
The Frieda and Roy Furman Gallery
Film Society of Lincoln Center
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?”
Dearly Departures: “A Long Way… A Longer Distance Call”
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.”
T. Lang: A Woman Searching
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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