Nearly 100 years ago, the Denishawn dance company presented its first performance, beginning a tradition of nurturing dance and choreographic talent that made the company one of the most influential in the history of modern dance. Today, the Atlanta Ballet is following in Denishawn’s footsteps with its New Choreographic Voices series.
The Atlanta Ballet offered an opportunity to talk with New Choreographic Voices choreographer Tara Lee and dancer John Welker, Thursday, April 19, at the inaugural Pointe of View lecture at the beautiful (and Gold LEEDS certified) Atlanta Ballet Michael C. Carlos Centre in Atlanta. The talk was moderated by Kennesaw State University Director of Dance Ivan Pulinkala, the moving force behind the association between the Ballet and the University, who spoke about the commitment demonstrated by the ballet to the growth of its performing artists.
Tara Lee, a 16-year member of the Atlanta Ballet Company, is one of three new choreographers featured on the upcoming New Choreographic Voices performance May 18 – 20 at the Woodruff Arts Center. Ms. Lee described Pavo, her upcoming world premiere, with such enthusiasm that I came away determined to see it. And we are in for an additional treat, as the work will also feature a live performance of a new musical score by Georgia State professor Nickitas Demos, who worked closely with the choreographer and dancers. The choreography, Ms. Lee explained, began with an exploration of cycles, and ultimately became about breaking out of a cycle. Her central image for the choreography is the peacock, which represents a link to the divine in Eastern cultures, chooses his mate for life, and exhibits “mad dancing before a rainstorm.” The peacock can eat poisonous snakes, so the work also investigates overcoming poisonous or negative tendencies within each of us. It became clear that there will be intriguing layers of imagery and meaning to this new work.
John Welker, who will perform in Pavo, is a 17-year veteran of the company. He spoke about the interaction between choreographer and dancers in creating the piece, and how such collaborations empower the dancer and support the choreographer. He says you can watch the artists grow when they wrap their minds around aspects of movement other than the daily quest for technical perfection. Mr. Welker is no newcomer to crashing through barriers; he is the visionary behind Wabi Sabi, under the Atlanta Ballet umbrella. Like New Choreographic Voices, Wabi Sabi is also a venue for experimentation, providing opportunities for emerging Atlanta choreographers to work with accomplished dancers. The environment becomes a partner in the outdoor presentations that shorten the distance between artist and audience.
When asked what the Atlanta community can do to support these new dance dimensions, there were two recommendations: Bring a friend or colleague who hasn’t seen dance before (with the reasonable ticket prices, it will be easy to do). Then, when you see something you like, put it out there: blog it, Facebook it, Tweet it, send an email to your friends, and let the company know so they can bring you more of the things you want to see. Join me at the Woodruff Arts Center in May. New Choreographic Voices promises to be a captivating experience.