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Atlanta Ballet Presents Modern Choreographic Voices

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Atlanta Ballet Presents
Modern Choreographic Voices

Three Premieres Illuminate Company’s Athletic and Artistic Range

March 21- 23 – Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Works by Ohad Naharin, Alexei Ratmansky and Tara Lee

For one weekend only, March 21-23, Atlanta Ballet will offer three unique works by three dynamically distinct choreographers at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre for its Modern Choreographic Voices (MCV) production.

MCV is an evolution of the program created by Atlanta Ballet in 2010, titled then Ignition: New Choreographic Voices. Over the past four seasons, artistic director John McFall has molded the program into a barometer of what’s new and exciting in the dance world, presenting new works by up-and-coming artists as well as premieres by modern day greats.

This season’s production will feature two of ballet’s most recognized and well-respected living dance makers – Ohad Naharin and Alexei Ratmansky – joined by Atlanta Ballet’s own Tara Lee, veteran company dancer and budding choreographer who’ll represent the young, emerging artistic class.

Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas – Atlanta Ballet Premiere

Power, precision and stamina are three words that may spring to mind when watching Alexei Ratmansky’s intense, fast-paced Seven Sonatas – a work that has become a hallmark for the Russian dancer-turned-choreographer, who, at 45, has already become an icon in the ballet world.

In his relatively brief, yet impressive career, he has:

–          Revived one of the oldest ballet institutions in the world, the Bolshoi Ballet, where he served as director for four years;

–          Staged more than 20 successful works around the world, making him one of the most prolific choreographers of his generation (and possibly of all time);

–          Been named a 2013 MacArthur Fellow by the MacArthur Foundation; and

–          Currently serves as artist in residence at American Ballet Theatre (ABT) in New York.

The New York Times has even called him “the most looked-to choreographer in Western ballet” and “the most gifted choreographer specializing in classical ballet today.”

Photo by C McCullers

Atlanta Ballet now adds itself to the exclusive list of companies with the fortune of presenting a Ratmansky, especially one as well received as Sonatas, which has been described by critics as “remarkable,” “miraculous,” “spellbinding,” and an “indelible imprint of beauty.”

Seven Sonatas is a classical piece for six dancers who engage with each other in a variety of intricate combinations, set to seven “Keyboard Sonatas” by composer Domenico Scarlatti. It was one of the first works Ratmansky created for his dancers at ABT in 2009 and Atlanta Ballet has the distinction of being the first outside of ABT to perform it – a major tribute to the growing national reputation of the Company.

Tara Lee’s the authors – World Premiere

Atlanta Ballet dancer Tara Lee will take her artistic range to task in March’s Modern Choreographic Voices as she balances the roles of dancer and choreographer, proving she has the ability to do it all.

In addition to the huge undertaking of staging her own world premiere, Lee, who’s in her 18th season with the Company, will dance in both Naharin’s Secus and Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas.

Photo by C McCullers

Lee made her choreographic debut with Sixteen String in 2003.  Created for an Atlanta Ballet choreographers’ workshop, Sixteen String was handpicked by John McFall for the Company’s next season.  In 2004, McFall offered Tara another opportunity, which led to the creation of Poem, a dramatic duet that she danced with a fellow company artist to the music of Jeff Buckley. Subsequent commissions include two works for Emory Dance Company; a Margaret Mitchell-inspired duet for Georgia Public Broadcasting; and three works –The Akara, Mind Myself, and En Route – commissioned for Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi.  Pavo, her most recent Atlanta Ballet work, premiered in 2012’s New Choreographic Voices to critical acclaim.

Her new work, titled the authors, is an examination of human relationships inspired by the idea that adjusting one’s focus can reveal a larger truth. The concept is illustrated through an abstract narrative danced by five dancers, each “authoring” their parts in a story the audience will see unfold on stage.

Ohad Naharin’s Secus – Atlanta Ballet Premiere

To round out the MCV bill, Atlanta Ballet will present Ohad Naharin’s Secus – the Company’s second work with the internationally-heralded choreographer.

Naharin, a native of Israel, is a protégé of ballet legend and mother of modern dance Martha Graham. He, himself, is now one of the most unique contemporary voices in dance, employing a movement language – known as “Gaga” – that strips the formality and barriers of traditional dance away in favor of a more organic, sensory dance experience.

Atlanta was introduced to Naharin and his signature style last season with the crowd-favorite Minus 16.

Like Minus 16, Secus is an infectious, fast-paced piece that requires the dancers to rely on their technical skill as well as their athleticism. The physically-demanding work is set to an eclectic mix of music that includes artists such as Chari Chari, Kid 606+Rayon, Kaho Naa, Pyar Hai, Seefeel, and the Beach Boys.

“There’s no theme, just many suggested themes,” said Naharin of the piece. “I look upon this dance as simply one more offering of the power of imagination…I play with the borders, the limits. There is passion, extreme…It is the pleasure of the moment, like in gastronomy, the same pleasure as in good food.”

Secus, which translates from Latin as “this and not this, at the same time,” was created in 2005 as a part of Naharin’s full-evening work Three.

“From total stillness, the dancers burst into flurries of activity, creating a sense of organized chaos both in the space and within their bodies,” said Deborah Friedesa in a 2010 review in The Jerusalem Post. “Their novel movement often defies description, but it constantly commands attention and inspires awe.

Atlanta Ballet’s Modern Choreographic Voices opens Friday, March 21 and runs for four performances at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre (2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta, GA 30339). Tickets start as low as $20 and are on sale now. To purchase tickets, visit www.atlantaballet.com or call 404-892-3303. For groups of ten or more, call Atlanta Ballet Group Sales at 404-873-5811, ext. 207.

Photo by C McCullers

Photo by C McCullers

About Atlanta Ballet
Founded in 1929, Atlanta Ballet is one of the premier dance companies in the country and the official state Ballet of Georgia. Atlanta Ballet’s eclectic repertoire spans ballet history, highlighted by beloved classics and inventive originals. After 84 seasons, Atlanta Ballet continues its commitment to share and educate audiences on the empowering joy of dance. In 1996, Atlanta Ballet opened the Centre for Dance Education and is dedicated to nurturing young dancers while providing an outlet for adults to express their creativity. The Centre serves over 150,000 people in metro Atlanta each year. Atlanta Ballet’s roots remain firmly grounded in the Atlanta community and continue to play a vital role in the city’s cultural growth and revitalization. For more information, visit www.atlantaballet.com, follow us on Twitter @atlantaballet, and like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/atlantaballet.

Modern Choreographic Voices Offers and Special Events

  • Preshow Lobby Entertainment: Come early and enjoy live entertainment by DJ John of the 902 Group. Doors open an hour before the performance.   The Atlanta Ballet Centre Youth Ensemble – Community Programs will also perform a selection in the lobby prior to show time.
  • POST-PERFORMANCE Q&A: Remain in the theatre after the opening night (3/21) performance of Modern Choreographic Voices to participate in a Q&A with dancers and artistic staff from the three featured works. Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall will lead the evening’s discussion. This is a great opportunity to speak with the artistic staff that brought the production to life at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre and to learn more about the process of staging such a large production. FREE for ticketholders.
  • SINGLE IN THE CITY: Booze & Ballet (Presented In Partnership with Atlanta-based Blog “Your Life After 25”)

Friday, March 21

Preshow Event at Cinco Mexican Cantina – 6:30 p.m. | Performance at Cobb Energy Centre – 8 p.m.

Join fellow ballet lovers and culture seekers for pre-show cocktails and conversation before the company’s production of Modern Choreographic Voices at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. For just $30, the Single in the City package includes entry to an exclusive preshow event at Cinco Mexican Cantina with a complimentary cocktail* and light hors d’oeuvres, along with a specially discounted ticket to opening night of Atlanta Ballet’s production of Modern Choreographic Voices. Attendees will also be entered to win a gift certificate to Spa Sydell.**

To purchase the Single in the City package, visit: www.atlantaballet.com/single

*Choice of a Cinco’s house margarita, an Absolut martini, or house wine.
**No purchase necessary to be entered to win Spa Sydell gift certificate.

  • GROUP SALES: Discounts are available for groups of 10 or more. For tickets, please contact group sales manager Myredith Gonzales at 404-873-5811, ext. 207, or by email at mgonzales@atlantaballet.com.
  • LGBT Nite Out with David Magazine:

Saturday, March 22 | Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre

Cocktails – 6:30 p.m.| Performance – 8:00 p.m.

Atlanta Ballet and David Magazine have partnered to present LGBT Nite Out for the Saturday evening performance of the Company’s Modern Choreographic Voices. For just $50, the Nite Out package includes a specially discounted ticket to the performance as well as entry to the exclusive Nite Out Lounge in the grand tier of the Cobb Energy Centre, one complimentary cocktail and a meet-and-greet with an Atlanta Ballet dancer.

To purchase the Nite Out package, visit: www.atlantaballet.com/niteout

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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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