Atlanta Ballet Company Dancers in Ratmansky's "Seven Sonatas"

Atlanta Ballet Company Dancers in Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas” (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie McCullers)

Today, few ballet companies perform exclusively classical repertoire.  More and more companies are presenting grounded, gut-driven, risky work.

Atlanta has become a hotbed for this kind of movement. With dance on fire in the metropolitan city, contemporary choreographers are flocking south to investigate what all the hype is about.

Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall is driven by a passion to inspire a love of dance in the City of Atlanta and by selecting the works presented for “Modern Choreographic Voices,” annual programming that the company started presenting in 2010, he set out to do just that.

On March 31, Atlanta Ballet dancers proved they posses the prowess to perform a vast array of movement styles, showcasing their rare ability to let go of years of classical technique in order to give way to the abandon required for contemporary dance.

The program commenced with Alexei Ratmansky’s “Seven Sonatas,” set to the music of Dominco Scarlatti and costumes fashioned by Holly Hynes. The curtain rose to a blank stage, decorated only with a piano and poised musician, ready to play.  Christian Clark, Brandon Nguyen, Jared Tan, Nadia Mara, Tara Lee, and Rachel Van Buskirk whirled, darted, and glided, ebbing and flowing with the brilliant musical precision of the pianist.  The dancers moved independently and together, in solos and pas de deuxs, celebrating the whimsical and intricate musical composition.  Rachel Van Buskirk danced the technically difficult choreography playfully, showing off her impeccable technique and articulate musicality.

Christine Winkler and John Welker in Tara Lee's "The Authors" (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie McCullers)

Christine Winkler and John Welker in Tara Lee’s “The Authors” (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie McCullers)

Company member Tara Lee’s new ballet, “The Authors,” was an examination of human relationships and the affect an individual’s point of view can have on all aspects of a person’s life.

Five dancers intertwined and manipulated each other’s limbs, giving punctuation to their movements and embodying a movement quality similar to the delicate curves required by a writer when scripting in cursive. Lee’s choreography reflected the same thoughtfulness she portrays in her dancing. She crafted innovative partnering for John Welker and Christine Winkler, who exquisitely performed their emotive pas de deux.

The show concluded with respected Israeli choreographer Ohad Naharin’s, “Secus” — translated from Latin, Secus means “this and not this, at the same time.”

A favorite of the dancers, “Secus” began with the performers standing still onstage, while swanky jazz tunes infiltrated the performance space. Emotionless, the dancers dared the audience to judge their movements.

Nadia Mara in Naharin's "Secus" (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie McCullers)

Nadia Mara in Naharin’s “Secus” (Photo: Courtesy of Charlie McCullers)

Naharin’s genius exists in his inherent ability to capture beauty in the chaos manifested in the movements of the dancers as they perform his work, as well as in his strategic placement of dancers onstage. Technically trained, Atlanta Ballet dancers embodied contralateral energies and fully committed to finding the physical release necessary for “Secus.” They exhibited complete abandon when transitioning from movements requiring impeccable classical technique to Naharin’s raw, grounded, and gritty contemporary phrase work. Nadia Mara tackled this dance exceptionally well.

By presenting the works of world-renown, innovative choreographers such as Ratmansky and Naharin, as well as by supporting company dancer Tara Lee as she investigates her own movement vocabulary, Atlanta Ballet showed that it is more than a top-tier American ballet company. The company proved it is hungry to learn and to perform current, edgy work.

I am proud to be a dancer in this City, and I look forward to witnessing what Atlanta Ballet performs next.

Written by Christen Sewell Weimer Tate

Christen Sewell Weimer Tate

An Atlanta native, Christen Sewell Weimer Tate embodied a passion for movement at a young age. Before fully actualizing her love of dance, Christen competed both nationally and internationally as a rhythmic gymnast. Transitioning to the art of dance came somewhat organically for her when she enrolled in the school at Atlanta Ballet in 2000. Christen’s pursuit of movement propelled her first to Indiana University’s Ballet program and then to New York, where she studied, choreographed and performed at Barnard College, Columbia University. Graduating magna cum laude from Barnard in 2006, Christen holds a BA in Psychology and a minor in Dance. Christen has performed professionally with Brooks and Company Dance, as well as with Bodiography Contemporary Ballet. She also occasionally dabbles in commercial work, and in 2001 Christen was featured as a rhythmic gymnast in Outkast’s music video, “Trans DF Express.” Christen furthered her studies at New York University’s Tisch School of the Arts, from where she received an MFA in Dance Performance in 2011. She is a certified MindBody Dancer yoga instructor and received her training under the direction of TaraMarie Perri. Currently, Christen works on faculty in the Drama and Dance department at Spelman College and periodically reviews the Atlanta dance scene for DIY Dancer.