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Atlanta Ballet Announces its 2014-15 Performance Season

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Company Spices Up 85th Season with
Audience Favorites and Avant-Garde Premieres

Featuring
Revival of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Epic Roméo et Juliette

Return of Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16

Premiere of San Francisco Ballet’s Resident Choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony

Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Swedish Choreographer Alexander Ekman’s Cacti

World Premiere of Camino Real by
Atlanta Ballet Choreographer in Residence Helen Pickett

For its 85th season, Atlanta Ballet (AB) will turn the dial once more on its stout commitment to bring the best in ballet to Atlanta, evident by the 14-15 line-up announced today by artistic director John McFall.

Patrons will be introduced to a fresh collection of shining stars in the dance world today, while also being reminded of the works and choreographers they’ve already come to love.

Among the returning fan favorites is the sleek, sophisticated Romeo et Juliette by Les Ballet de Monte-Carlo’s Jean-Christophe Maillot – a blockbuster hit with audiences during the Company’s 13-14 season. Atlanta Ballet will also restage the wildly-popular Minus 16 by Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin and the “spellbinding” neoclassical work Seven Sonatas by American Ballet Theatre’s Alexei Ratmansky.

To complement the tried-and-true, Atlanta Ballet will present a healthy share of new works, including the long-awaited world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Camino Real, inspired by the Tennessee Williams play of the same name. Other Atlanta Ballet premieres include Classical Symphony by San Francisco Ballet resident choreographer Yuri Possokhov and Cacti by Alexander Ekman.

Atlanta Ballet’s 2014-15 Season

ATLANTA BALLET’S NUTCRACKER (Full-evening Ballet)

December 11 – 28, 2014 | The Fabulous Fox Theatre

Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

The tradition continues as the season begins with Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker at the Fabulous Fox Theatre. The whimsical holiday tale takes 20 pounds of snow, eight tons of scenery, lighting, and props, and a 38-foot-tall Christmas tree to make the magic of Marya’s unbelievable story come to life. More than 200 of Atlanta’s young dancers will join the Atlanta Ballet professional company for this extravagant production live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Georgia Youth Choir for all performances. After 55 years, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker continues to be a treasured holiday tradition shared by multiple generations.

Encore Presentation of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s Roméo et Juliette (Full-evening Ballet)

February 6 – 14, 2015 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

Named an Atlanta Ballet “tour de force” by ArtsATL, Jean-Christophe Maillot’s ethereal production of Roméo et Juliette is back by popular demand for the 14-15 Season. A startlingly fresh take on the well-known Shakespearean masterpiece, Roméo et Juliette embodies the titillating power of young, forbidden love.

Atlanta Ballet debuted Roméo et Juliette in February 2014 to overwhelmingly positive reviews from patrons and critics, and, like most other companies that have presented the work since its world premiere, will have it back for a consecutive run.

The emotional, cinematic work was described by ArtsATL as “smart, beautiful, and epic,” and the Backstage Beat deemed it “spectacular.”

‘Romeo et Juliette’ is a triumph for Atlanta Ballet,” said Atlanta arts writer Cynthia Bond Perry in a review for the Atlanta Journal-Constitution. “With choreographer Jean-Christophe Maillot’s production, the company’s quest to build a sleek artistic profile is more fully realized than ever…Atlanta Ballet has again surpassed itself. 

WORLD PREMIERE: Helen Pickett’s Tennessee Williams-Inspired CAMINO REAL (Full-evening Ballet)

March 20 – 22, 2015 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Live with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra

Kilroy is coming… For her fourth work and first full-evening ballet for Atlanta Ballet, Helen Pickett – the Company’s resident choreographer – mounts the much-anticipated world premiere of Camino Real. Inspired by the 1953 Tennessee Williams play of the same name, the story is told from the perspective of Kilroy, a character based on patriotic iconography from the WWII era. The work grapples with human mortality, the burning desire to connect, and the will to live.

MODERN CHOREOGRAPHIC VOICES (Mixed Repertory)

April 17 – 19, 2015 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Featuring: Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Classical Symphony by San Francisco Ballet’s Yuri Possokhov

Return of Israeli Choreographer Ohad Naharin’s Minus 16

Atlanta Ballet’s eclectic mixed-rep program Modern Choreographic Voices (MCV) shatters perceptions of dance in the modern world by presenting the freshest and most innovative works from all corners of the globe. These distinctive pieces bend perceptions of ballet by blending classical precision with fearless expression.

This season’s program will feature the return of Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s ultra-modern and infectiously raucous Minus 16 as well as Russian choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s neoclassical Classical Symphony.

MAYhem (Mixed Repertory)

May 15 – 17, 2015 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Featuring: Atlanta Ballet Premiere of Alexander Ekman’s Cacti

Encore Presentation of Seven Sonatas by American Ballet Theatre’s Alexei Ratmansky 

The season closes with MAYhem, an explosive program that brings together three revolutionary contemporary works showcasing the dexterity and grace of Atlanta Ballet’s Company artists. Audiences will witness first-hand the high caliber athletic performance that is the hallmark of Atlanta Ballet’s dancers and has thrust the Company into the international spotlight as a preeminent dance company. MAYhem will host the encore of Alexei Ratmansky’s hypnotic Seven Sonatas – a beautiful, yet immensely challenging classical work – alongside the premiere of Swedish choreographer Alexander Ekman’s buoyant and inventive Cacti.

The eccentric Cacti, described by the choreographer’s website as a “gleeful and knowing parody of dance’s greater excesses,” consists of 16 dancers creating rhythms together with four musicians live on stage.

“While the string quartet plays,” says the site, “and spoken recordings give tongue-in-cheek narration of the action, the dancers run, fall, writhe and try to escape their invisible prisons; eventually – and this is the important bit – they each acquire a cactus.”

Cacti’s commentary on the vainglories and idiosyncrasies of contemporary dance is spot on and side-splittingly funny, but it wouldn’t be half the work it is if Ekman didn’t have the choreographic chops to back it up. A winning combination of genuinely stunning choreography, clever stage design, a live string quartet and lashings of self-aware irony,” said Time out Australia in a 2013 review.

The award-winning work was created in 2010 and is one of Ekman’s most successful pieces to date, with recent performances by Sydney Dance Company, Dresden Ballet, Dortmund Stadstheater and Boston Ballet.

The Atlanta Ballet Fellowship Ensemble Presents Snow White (One-hour Family Performance)

February 14-15, 2015 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Atlanta Ballet fosters the next generation of dancers with its annual one-hour family performance by the Atlanta Ballet Fellowship Ensemble – a presentation of the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. Designed for younger audiences, ages 12 and under, the family ballet brings to life beloved childhood tales and is the perfect way to introduce children to the joys of dance.

For more information on Atlanta Ballet’s 2014-15 season, call 404-892-3303 or visit www.atlantaballet.com. Subscription packages are available for purchase now and single tickets will go on sale late summer 2014

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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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