Press Release: Ballerina Christine Winkler - After 19 Seasons - Prepares for Her Final Bow
Ballerina Christine Winkler—After 19 Seasons— Prepares for Her Final Bow
Veteran Company Dancer to Retire at the end of Atlanta Ballet’s 13-14 Season
Winkler to dance finale performance with husband and fellow company dancer, John Welker,
in Atlanta Ballet’s May production, MAYhem
ATLANTA - April 21, 2014 - This May, Atlanta Ballet will bid a fond adieu to veteran company dancer Christine Winkler, who’ll hang up her pointe shoes after an extraordinary career that has spanned more than two decades.
Her career will culminate during the Company’s season-ender, "MAYhem," May 16 through 18 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Winkler will perform in the premiere of Helen Pickett’s “The Exiled” during the Saturday and Sunday matinees and will dance her “swan song” as a special finale to the Saturday, May 17 evening performance.
Winkler, a California native, joined the Company in 1995 with her then soon-to-be husband, John Welker, at the request of newly-installed artistic director John McFall. Both Winkler and Welker were company dancers at Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah before getting the call to venture down south. Welker had been a student of McFall’s at BalletMet in Ohio and brought Winkler, whom McFall had never met, down with him for the Atlanta Ballet audition.
“It’s actually a pretty funny story,” recalls Winkler. “I was recovering from an injury when we got word that John McFall had joined Atlanta Ballet and was looking for dancers. Despite my limited ability, John [Welker] and I went down to audition, and McFall, thankfully, saw something in me and it’s been a dream come true ever since.”
Over the last 19 seasons, ballet-goers have watched Winkler blossom into a powerhouse dancer with singular artistry, stage presence and poise.
“There have been a lot of huge moments for me at Atlanta Ballet,” said Winkler. “When I joined the Company I was 21 years old and had never danced a principal role in a story ballet before. I learned so much in my first season about dancing, about myself, about character roles on stage, and that period was really special for me.”
Since her inaugural season, she’s danced innumerable lead roles – often times with Welker - in practically every production the Company has presented: Odette in “Swan Lake,” Juliet in “Romeo and Juliet,” Aurora in “Sleeping Beauty,” Kitri in “Don Quixote,” Mina in Michael Pink’s “Dracula” and many other quintessential story ballet roles.
Choreographers also often draw inspiration from Winkler, like legendary choreographer Twyla Tharp, who created a role on her in the 2012 Atlanta Ballet world premiere, “The Princess and the Goblin.” Even this season, Winkler was a muse for fellow company dancer Tara Lee’s world premiere, “the authors.”
Winkler has also shared many personal milestones with Atlanta Ballet. In the spring of 1999, ironically a month after dancing their first story ballet together, she and Welker married, with Winkler wearing a dress created by Atlanta Ballet costume designer April McCoy. Most recently, she also shared the experience of her first pregnancy with Atlanta Ballet, leading studio rehearsals up until her final weeks before giving birth. Then, for her first performance post-baby – only four months after delivering - Winkler danced a solo for the Ballet’s Wabi Sabi summer season choreographed by Welker.
And now, for her finale performance, Winkler has chosen Diane Coburn Bruning’s “Berceuse,” a romantic duet that she’ll fittingly share with Welker, bringing her time at Atlanta Ballet full circle.
“Dancing with Christine has meant everything to me,” said Welker. “Certainly Christine is my partner on stage, but, more so, she is my wife, my son’s mother, my best friend, and my reason for inspiration. Words fall away when I try to describe what these past 20 years have meant to me. They are magic. When we take the stage together there is a feeling of dancing, not as two individuals sharing a moment, but as a single whole. We feel and know the other as a part of ourselves, an extension of thought and feeling where words are not necessary. You merely have to think it for the other to feel it. She is a true ballerina who inspires me daily and has given me such a wealth of memories and riches of the heart.”
As Winkler looks ahead to the future, one thing is certain: family will be paramount. “I think the next chapter of my life will be dedicated first to being there for [my son] Lucas and enjoying that time with him, because it's so special and precious,” said Winkler. “But I would also love to teach. I love dance too much and I know I have to be involved in some way. I've had so many experiences that I need to pass on and share.”
Throughout her career, Winkler has worked with and been a mentor for young dancers. For several seasons, she and Welker served as co-directors of Atlanta Ballet’s Pre-Professional Summer Intensive Program. This summer, Winkler plans to teach classes for the Kennesaw State University dance department, which is also a partner of Atlanta Ballet’s Centre for Dance Education.
“It is incredible to think that at 10 years old I had this dream and desire to be a ballerina,” said Winkler. “I told my parents that's what I wanted to be, but it's so rare and so unique that it actually happens. I know how special that is and it's amazing.”
In celebration of Winkler’s career and the impact she has had on the organization, Atlanta Ballet will host a series of public farewell events, beginning Thursday, May 8 with a free party and performance at whitespace Gallery in Inman Park and culminating at the Saturday, May 17 evening performance of "MAYhem."
For additional details on upcoming farewell events for Christine Winkler, including her performances in "MAYhem," visit www.atlantaballet.com or call 404-892-3303.
About Christine Winkler: A California native, Christine trained with Barbara Crockett and furthered her studies with the San Francisco Ballet School. She then joined Ballet West, where she met husband John Welker. Memorable highlights since joining Atlanta Ballet in 1995 include Princess Aurora in Sleeping Beauty, Juliet in Michael Pink’s Romeo & Juliet, Odette in John McFall’s Swan Lake, Mina in Michael Pink’s Dracula, Kitri in Don Quixote, Waltz Girl in George Balanchine’s Serenade, Principal Woman in John McFall’s Firebird, Cio Cio San in Stanton Welch’s Madame Butterfly, and Daisy in John McFall and Lauri Stallings’ The Great Gatsby. Christine has worked with choreographers Christopher Hampson, Lila York, James Kudelka, Val Caniparoli, Wayne McGregor, Twyla Tharp, Darrell Moultrie, Gina Patterson, Jorden Morris, Helen Pickett and Juel Lane. Guest appearances include American Repertory Ensemble, Chamber Dance Project and New Orleans Ballet Theatre. For six years, Christine has served as co-director of Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education’s Professional Division Summer Intensive Program.
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 85 years, 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.