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Atlanta Ballet Announces 13|14 Season

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Atlanta Ballet Continues to Shape New Artistic Profile with Announcement of its Robust 2013-14 Season

Featuring

Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Roméo et Juliette by Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo’s Jean-Christophe Maillot

Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Ohad Naharin’s Secus

Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas

Return of Stephen Mill’s Hamlet

A World Premiere by Atlanta Ballet Choreographer in Residence Helen Pickett

The artistic evolution of Atlanta Ballet (AB) continues as the Company reveals another season of dynamic dance and provocative premieres by some of the world’s most inventive and in-demand choreographers.

The 2012-13 season was a vibrant blend of Company favorites and daring new works, but the 13-14 season promises to push the limits even further as it takes another grand leap in defining itself as a Company to reckon with.

“Something is happening at Atlanta Ballet, and audiences should take note,” said Atlanta dance writer Cynthia Perry in a 2013 performance review.

“Atlanta Ballet is no longer just a strong Southern troupe – it’s a boundary-pushing powerhouse,” said national dance publication Pointe Magazine in a recent article.

The new season will be marked by company debuts such as the sophisticated retelling of Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet (titled Roméo et Juliette) by Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo’s Jean-Christophe Maillot. The full-evening ballet was most recently performed by Seattle’s Pacific Northwest Ballet (PNB) and opened to stellar reviews.

Atlanta Ballet’s program of edgy, contemporary dances will return in March, highlighted by another premiere from Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin. Naharin’s 2013 contribution to the AB season was the audience hit Minus 16. This time the dancers will go Gaga with Naharin’s Secus – the second work in a three-year partnership with the choreographer.

Atlanta Ballet will also present another modern interpretation of a Shakespearian classic, the return of Stephen Mill’s emotionally-charged Hamlet in April. In May, for the season finale, Atlanta audiences will witness two new works: a world premiere by AB’s new resident choreographer Helen Pickett, inspired by the Tennessee Williams’s play Camino Real, and a debut by current AB company dancer Tara Lee.

“It’s always exciting to announce a new season, but one of this caliber is truly exhilarating,” said Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall. “We’ll be representing some of the most notable choreographers from around the world, while continuing to foster new talent and usher in the next generation of dance makers. This season embodies our commitment to create a distinct artistic profile for Atlanta Ballet. Our dancers have never looked stronger, and we are proud to bring compelling performances of extraordinary works to our audiences.”

Atlanta Ballet’s 2013-14 Season

BELK PRESENTS ATLANTA BALLET’S NUTCRACKER (Full-evening Ballet)
December 6-29, 2013 | The Fabulous Fox Theatre
Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra
Featuring New Magical Illusions by Special Guest Artist Drew Thomas

THE NUTTY NUTCRACKER
ONE NIGHT ONLY – December 19, 2013 | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Jean-Christophe Maillot’s ROMÉO ET JULIETTE (Full-evening Ballet)
February 7–15, 2014 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

MODERN CHOREOGRAPHIC VOICES (Mixed Repertory)
March 21-23, 2014 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Featuring the Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Israeli Choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Secus
Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Seven Sonatas by American Ballet Theatre’s Alexei Ratmansky
Atlanta Ballet Encore Presentation of Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash

Stephen Mill’s HAMLET (Full-evening Ballet)
April 11–13, 2014 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Music by Philip Glass performed live by the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

CAMINO REAL – A WORLD PREMIERE BY HELEN PICKETT (Mixed Repertory)
May 16–18, 2014 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre
Also featuring a New Work by Atlanta Ballet Company Dancer Tara Lee

The Atlanta Ballet Fellowship Ensemble Presents: PINOCCHIO (One-hour Family Performance)
February 15-16, 2014 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

For more information on Atlanta Ballet’s 2013-14 season, call 404-873-5811 or visit www.atlantaballet.com.

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“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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Atlanta Ballet’s “Nutcracker” Enchants

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© Laura Christian

This year, the Atlanta Ballet marks the 20th anniversary of Artistic Director John McFall’s “The Nutcracker.” Attendance is a familiar holiday season tradition for many area families, who line up to see the changes and improvements that occur each year. While the story of the young girl who receives a Nutcracker-who-comes-to-life is familiar to thousands of ballet fans, there are many versions. The Atlanta Ballet’s production is richly designed and elegantly danced.

Originally a failure in St. Petersburg, Russia, in 1892, “The Nutcracker” is now a holiday staple in the United States. Nobody dances it any better than the Atlanta Ballet, and nobody loves it more than a matinee house full of children! Whether they are watching their peers on-stage; hearing the Georgia Youth Choir singing in the Snow scene from the boxes; absorbing the live music from the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra in the pit; laughing with joy at Mother Matrushka’s children, emerging from under her skirts; screaming with glee at the capering Chinese Dragon; or reaching far above their heads to capture a snowflake, the children are enraptured for the two-plus hours the ballet is on the stage—and the adults are mesmerized right beside them.

Mother Matrushka in Atlanta Ballet’s “Nutcracker.” Photograph by C. McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

There are some elements of this version of the ballet that are not my favorites, but the dancers didn’t make that list. Casting is impeccable, and, for me, part of the excitement of revisiting the old standby is seeing the dancers mature, improve, and demonstrate new abilities. The other part is watching the children captivated by the allure of the Fabulous Fox Theatre, the live music, the dancers, and the dancing—and being enthralled myself.

My list of this year’s positives goes like this:

John McFall has to contend with decreasing audience attention spans as we move further into the age of technology, and he tweaks Act I each year to make it more exciting. It is fast-paced. You may want to see the ballet more than once to catch everything! The foreshadowing during Act I was clear and well-conceived, and had the audience eagerly anticipating the return of the dancers to the stage after intermission.

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Kurtis Blow and the Hip Hop Nutcracker

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A holiday mash-up for the entire family, The Hip Hop Nutcracker, a contemporary work set to Tchaikovsky’s timeless music, embarks on an international tour on the strength of last December’s sold-out performances of the world premiere at New Jersey Performing Arts Center (NJPAC) and United Palace of Cultural Arts (UPCA) in New York City. The Hip Hop Nutcracker will make a stop at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre Saturday, Nov. 28 at 2 p.m.

 

The Hip Hop Nutcracker is directed and choreographed by Jennifer Weber, artistic director of the all-female hip-hop crew Decadancetheatre in Brooklyn. It is adapted to today’s New York by Mike Fitelson, executive director of UPCA – the work’s original producer – and includes hip-hop interludes remixed and reimagined by DJ Boo and violinist Filip Pogády.

For its stop at Atlanta’s Fox Theatre on Saturday, Nov. 28, The Hip Hop Nutcracker features special guest MC Kurtis Blow, one of the founders and creators of recorded rap music.

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