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The World Premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and The Goblin

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Seeing the Atlanta Ballet present renowned choreographer Twyla Tharp’s production of The Princess and The Goblin was the equivalent of being invited into an artistic dream sequence filled with simplistic magic, star dust imagery, and cheery children. Even though the goblin horde in this ballet tale stole the children, it was the local children’s performances that really captured the heart of the audience. With just a weekend left (February 17-19) at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, the Atlanta Ballet presents the World Premiere of Twyla Tharp’s The Princess and The Goblin will surely dazzle young and old hearts alike. Opening night was introduced by the Artistic Director of the Atlanta Ballet John McFall who explained how this ballet conceptualized and the partnerships that it took to make it a reality – an artistic partnership with the Royal Winnipeg Ballet, one of the grand dames of ballet – Twyla Tharp’s choreographing genius, and thirteen local students from the Atlanta Center for Dance Education to play the part of the children in this ballet. It was a super special treat seeing the cast, prominent members of the Atlanta Ballet and Royal Winnipeg Ballet, the Atlanta Center for Dance Education’s youth, and the fabulous Twyla Tharp come out to take a bow at the closing of opening night.
 
The Princess and The Goblin ballet was created by Tharp for the Atlanta Ballet and Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet. Based on George MacDonald’s 1872 fantasy novel of the same name, the story centers around Princess Irene and her quest to rescue kidnapped children from the goblin. (Please note, the use of “goblin” here and throughout the story can mean more than one.) The ballet starts with Great-Great-Grandmother Irene (Princess Irene’s namesake) (Christine Winkler) spinning en pointe and dancing in all white. As the story unfolds, Princess Irene (24-year old Alessa Rogers) discovers that the goblin are stealing children, including her two little sisters – Stella and Blu (Stella McFall and Flannery Bogost), while Irene’s father, King Papa (John Welker), and the rest of the adults carry on enjoying their garden party without a care in the world. Brave Princess Irene and her male friend Curdie (Jacob Bush) head into the Goblin Kingdom to confront the King and Queen of the Goblin (King – John Welker; Queen – Tara Lee) and save the stolen children. With each being captured at different moments and goblin goons at every turn in the lair, it’s a wonder that they ever figure out how to rescue the children and escape the goblin. During one poignant scene, Great-Great-Grandmother Irene gives Princess Irene pointe shoes, which give the Princess strength, confidence, and magical ballet powers to fight the goblin horde. (And truth be told – what young woman does not want a fabulous pair of new shoes to fight off villains with?) Two main goblin guards, Helfer and Podge (Christian Clark and Jesse Tyler), become both intrigued and enamored with Princess Irene, providing comedic distraction and making it possible for Irene and Curdie to escape with the children. Then Curdie learns to see Great-Great-Grandmother Irene in all her dancing glory, beautifully silhouetted behind a white sheet. Princess Irene then teaches the children to dance and all are reunited with King Papa and the adults. There is a sweet ending twist with a red flower – one of the only color bold color elements throughout the continuous 75-minute ballet – and a melting of the audiences’ hearts as the cast of young girl and boy ballet dancers mix it up with their adult counterparts and show off their bright budding talents.
 
The artistic element was a lot to take in and interpret for someone who is not a ballet aficionado, but with the above synopsis and a few quick sparkling notes about the props, stage dressing, and costumes – you’re sure to enjoy the ballet with little to no prior ballet knowledge. Besides, who wouldn’t want to miss a cultural and artistic World Premiere that will only happen in Atlanta? The stage dressing and props were kept to a minimal – white sheets to reflect light; streamers (that appeared like hanging lights) to offer elements of rain, nightfall, and the darkness of the goblin’s lair; and a minimal, black staircase in the background of a few scenes. Costuming maintained a simple elegance with Princess Irene’s kingdom in white; goblin in goony, earth-toned rags; the Goblin King and Queen in regal black robes versus King Papa and Great-Great-Grandmother Irene’s regal white robes; Princess Irene and Curdie in white with neutral-toned belts; and the children in a wide variety of colored outfits befitting of children. The outfits and colors denote and help distinguish which ballet dancers are playing what part at what time because a few of them play several characters at different times during the non-stop performance.
 
With only a few days left to see this ballet, it is a perfect place to take your sweetheart, your daughters and other young children, or anyone who loves fairytales and dancing!
 
The Princess and The Goblin will be performed by the Atlanta Ballet from February 17-19 at Atlanta’s Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre:
 
Friday, February 17th – 8:00 p.m.
Saturday, February 18th – 8:00 p.m.
Sunday, February 19th – 2:00 p.m.
 
Atlanta Ballet
www.atlantaballet.com
 
Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
www.cobbenergycentre.com
2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway
Atlanta, GA 30339
(770) 916-2800

Art

Rain and Fire in Sedona

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Ange Alex

A rainy day in Sedona? What are we going to do. Everything we have planned is outdoors. I am pretty sure that is why people come to Sedona, for the beautiful OUTDOOR activities, like hiking, biking, Jeep tours, viewing the red rocks and photography. 

What to do, what to do.

Oh, I know. I had the privilege of meeting some great artists that work in fire and glass! The perfect indoor activity when your outdoor plans are washed away!

The Melting Point in Sedona, conveniently located across the street for the Whole Foods (two birds with one stone, yeah!), is a group of artist focusing on creating and teaching others how to create as well.

When we entered the facilities, it was like entering a fine arts gallery. So many beautiful works of glass art. Jordan Ford is the general manager and one of the Artists. He came out of the workshop and told us the rules, then brought us into the fold. 

We were about to become glass blowers! 

Jordan had a love for the natural world from a very early age. He went on to study geology in college but that is when he discovered glass. He currently has Bachelor’s Degrees in both Earth Science/Geology and Visual Arts/Glassblowing.

Jordan says , “It’s the process of blowing glass that drives me. I find the physical act of making glass so overwhelmingly fascinating. I approach most of my work with a consideration for the more classical techniques – it’s the framework that I use as a jumping point for experimentation.”

Not only is Jordan incredibly talented, he is really personable and extremely funny. He made everyone in the room feel at ease and we all often irrupted in bouts of laughter.

Another artist that was helping us is Austin Littenberg. Austin became interested in the art of glass blowing at age 16 after watching a documentary. He spent over 12 years developing his craft and learning the technical precision needed to work at this level.

Austin views the many ways Art presents itself and is in tune with it all, and it shows.

Clearly these two artist love what they do, and I for one am grateful for their expertise and their willingness to show the world their art.

They worked with us to create a beautiful cactus, complete with three flowers, one for each kid, and a Sedona rock like base. We loved the patience they showed and the skill to make us feel at ease. We never felt like  we were about to do something we just couldn’t. It felt like we had been doing this before. That is the measure of a true instructor. 

Our work of art was complete and we left there feeling accomplished and quite honestly, amazing! 

Both Austin and Jordan have remarkable skills but also wonderful comedic timing. They were a absolutely pleasure to meet and I look forward to keeping up with their art in the future.

If you find yourself in Sedona and want to meet some really wonderful people, stop by The Melting Point and say hello! While you’re there, blow some glass!

How could I forget one of them most important things; They have a studio dog! Austin brings his sweet baby girl to work with him and she is an angel! We loved her! Make sure you give her some love when you visit!

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Artists to Watch

Cry With Us! Puddles Pity Party in Orlando

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Ange Alex

I owe him a poem:

Here’s a story of a sad clown who one night in February was traveling through O-town. 

He brought a suitcase and a lot of gum, he brought music and videos and tons of fun.

He sang high but mostly he sang low, and he put of one hell of a good show.

He gave a bearded guy a cupcake and danced with a lady, a wolf he would make

There is no doubt he is a boss sir, he even got love from Kevin Costner.

Fans filled the plaza for a night of delight as the 7 foot clown gave us some real insight.

He sang Bowie and Queen and even some Who, also Cash, Lorde and “Let it go” too

Videos played of pets and babies crying, also beautiful artwork and people smiling.

Last night Orlando was anything but mad as we showed much love for a clown that is sad.

Ok, I’d cry too after that poem. Here’s some more info:

If you haven’t been to see a Puddles Pity Party show, you are missing out. 

The show had me smiling and laughing so hard my stomach hurt, but I was also moved so many times by the range of Puddles voice. True entertainment never gets old and I have a feeling he is going to last forever.

I loved the interaction he had with the crowd. He pulled numerous people up to help him on stage and all of them were good sports, one man even singing the entire song, “All by myself” karaoke style! The show was so well thought out and planned but with room for some hilarious improv. Especially at the end when he pulled the 3 fans from the audience dressed like clowns. At the end of them performing together, Puddles suddenly remembers that he is scared of clowns! Genius! 

Hands down one of the best performances I’ve seen in years.

 

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Dance

“20/20:Visionary”: Looking Back, Looking Forward

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Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Last weekend (March 18-20) the Atlanta Ballet gifted the city with “20/20: Visionary,” three pieces, including a world premiere, presented at the Cobb Energy Center.

The world premiere, “Playground,” by British choreographer Douglas Lee, belied its name by being a shadowy piece danced between upright, rolling chalkboard set pieces. Prepared for a lighthearted, joyful expression of childhood, I was surprised that the work instead exposed the darker side of childhood memories. There were some light moments, such as the towering billboard inscribed with multiple lines reading, “Jackie must remember the steps” – clearly a humorous aside about Jackie Nash, one of the most capable company members and perhaps the quickest study in rehearsal. There were some easily-seen choreographic devices–a lot of theme and variation, even more pushing around of set pieces–but there were a few exceptional moments as well, including intricate, slow-motion manipulation of a dancer’s body by another dancer.

Pen-Yu Chen & Tara Lee in “Boiling Point.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

The opening work, “Boiling Point,” by Darrell Grand Moultrie, was playfully performed at breakneck speed. Dancers are often told to “make it look easy,” and the company took that concept to heart. Highlighted against the men in black costumes, the women wore bits of metallic fabric, providing splashes of intense color and exposing powerful bodies with long muscles. The piece began with the stage space open almost to its fullest, and the dancers running across like a rushing river. They rolled, twisted, turned, and slid like water itself. The choreography juxtaposed synchronicity with counterpoint, traditional with innovation. There was a gargouillade, rarely seen even in classical ballets. The lines of the bodies were critical to the piece, and often layers deep. The flow was almost nonstop, with only an occasional flick of a wrist or toss of a head to provide momentary stasis. The standout was Christian Clark, who sometimes nearly managed to integrate himself into the group but then something distinctive and powerful in his dancing drew the eye to him again.

“Red Clay” from “Home in 7.” Photo by C McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

“Home in 7,” a work by Amy Siewert, closed the concert. A portrait of Atlanta, the ballet was a rich tapestry woven from music, spoken word, and movement. Performed in 7 segments to a libretto written and performed by Marc Bamuthi Joseph and an intriguing, haunting string score composed and performed by Daniel Bernard Roumain, the dance, too, was a poem, shimmering like summer moonlight on the Chattahoochee. John Welker opened the ballet with tiny explosions of movement “Secrets.” Perhaps the most enchanting segment was “Home of the Braves:” 5 men using baseball imagery, holding their formation as they slid precisely between pitches and catches. “Red Clay” evoked August nights, intolerance, and redemption—Atlanta history, a story familiar to many. I first saw this ballet in 2011, and it has grown in depth as the dancers have matured technically and emotionally. Atlanta loves its ballet company, and never more than when it showcases its home city.

John McFall is ending his tenure with the company at the end of this season. For newcomers to Atlanta Ballet offerings, this will have been a dynamic performance. For long-time supporters, it will have been an opportunity to reflect on his legacy. There are a couple more opportunities to see the company under his watch, and then he will pass the torch to Gennadi Nedvigin, the company’s fourth artistic director. Stay tuned!

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