Atlanta Ballet’s Nadia Mara and Christian Clark in Helen Pickett’s “Camino Real.” Photograph by Charlie McCullers, courtesy of Atlanta Ballet.

Salem’s music is richly evocative of love, hate, tenderness, pain, fear, and hope. The powerful drums are the heartbeat of the main character, but also the heartbeat of life itself, pounding above the poignant melodies. I think Tennessee Williams’ story has been waiting for this music ever since the play was written; perhaps it took this collaboration to bring everything together. The score is very complex and, I suspect, incredibly difficult to play. The Atlanta Ballet orchestra was in its element.

“Camino Real” means the Royal Road, or the King’s Highway. Many roads use the name. It could be U.S. 101. Or not. This Camino Real is the end of the road, the place where lost souls go to live out their last years, and many of them are digging in their fingernails to hang on to their lost youth. The dance is by turns angry, despairing, frantic, wistful, empathetic, and buoyant. The town is a way station, a holding zone, maybe the inescapable Purgatory. Helen Pickett still seems to be exploring this concept, as she did in “The Exiled” last year.