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The Cobb Energy Center auditorium was packed on Friday, April 12th, as Atlanta dance-lovers came out to see Atlanta Ballet in David Bintley’s, Carmina Burana.

Rachel Van Buskirk and Jonah Hooper in Carmina Burana: Photo credit to Charlie McCullers

To begin the performance, the company performed Petal, a brief work by resident choreographer, Helen Pickett.  The ballet was followed by a short intermission, during which the auditorium lights dimmed and vocalists from Georgia State University filled the rafters on either side of the stage, framing the audience.  Then Carl Orff’s magnificent music reverberated throughout the performance space.

There is an undeniable power in Orff’s score, which was reflected in the precision and intricacy of the movements of the single dancer onstage.  Adorned in a slinky black dress, blindfold, and flashy red heels, Rachel Van Buskirk embodied Bintley’s choreography with vigor and grace.  The juxtaposition of a single dancer’s movements with the ominous voices of numerous vocalists was unexpectedly powerful.

Carmina Burana was Bintley’s adaptation of a collection of texts from the 11th and 12th century.  These texts, some of them written in Latin and some in German, were moral and satirical in nature.  The story behind the texts was that of three seminarians, who stray from their faith in search of various pleasures of the flesh.

Rachel Van Buskirk in Carmina Burana: Photo by Charlie McCullers

The first seminarian fell for a “lover girl” and then was rejected.  The set and lighting reflected the inside of a dance club.  Heath Gill, who danced the role of the first seminarian embodied playfulness and a longing for more from his lover girl.  The second seminarian, flawlessly danced by Jesse Tyler, was driven by torment and yearning and aligned himself with a group of fat balding men, lusting after a roast swan (a female dressed as showgirl).  Tara Lee danced with innocence and without effort as she did her best to escape the gluttony of the men.  The third seminarian, danced by Jonah Hooper, surrendered whole-heartedly to beautiful Fortuna (Van Buskirk), the same goddess of destiny who opened the show to Orff’s score. Hooper’s performance possessed an honest vulnerability and humility that was captivating to watch. Van Buskirk portrayed the grace and strength of woman effortlessly.

Bintley’s Carmina embodied more satire than drama, and the  dancers committed fully to its vision.  The set, score, and costumes all reflected Bintley’s modern take on the chosen texts.  Yet the true genius of Bintley’s Carmina was reflected in the ballet’s physical exposure of the human condition.

Written by Christen Sewell Weimer

Christen Sewell Weimer

An Atlanta native, Christen Sewell Weimer 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. Christen graduated magna cum laude from Barnard in 2006 with 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. Christen was certified through the Mind Body Dancer® 200 Yoga Teacher Training with TaraMarie Perri. Through this comprehensive yoga teacher training, she was certified at the 200-hour level to teach alignment-based, breath-focused, mindful Vinyasa. (www.mindbodydancer.com). Currently, Christen serves on faculty in the Drama and Dance department at Spelman College, creates and teaches movement to avid dancers and periodically reviews the Atlanta dance scene for DIY Dancer. Christen would like to thank her family, friends, mentors and students, who continually inspire her.