Twyla Tharp Brings World Premiere, Full-Evening Work to Atlanta Ballet

ATLANTA - It was history in the making today as Atlanta Ballet announced one of the most monumental collaborations of its 82-year history - a world premiere, full-evening ballet by choreographic giant Twyla Tharp.

Tharp, who turns 70 this summer, is regarded as one of the world’s greatest living choreographers, with a prolific catalog of over 135 works that span genres and generations, including ballets, books, blockbuster productions on Broadway and in Vegas, and Hollywood screen credits in movies like Hair and Ragtime.

Tharp is the recipient of many awards and grants, counting a Tony Award, two Emmys, 19 honorary doctorates, the 2004 National Medal of the Arts and a 2008 Kennedy Center Honor.

Now she, Atlanta Ballet and the Royal Winnipeg Ballet (RWB) have set their sights on a new work that will incorporate a cast of professional dancers and children performing to the music of Franz Schubert.

Tharp joined Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall and RWB artistic director André Lewis for today’s announcement of the project, which will be a co-production between the two companies. Atlanta will host the North American premiere of the new ballet in February 2012 as the headline production of its 2011-12 season, followed by RWB’s Canadian premiere in fall 2012.

“Twyla is undeniably one of the most brilliant choreographers of our time,” said McFall. “She’s a trailblazer, a game changer, and a visionary and we are honored that she’s chosen to share her genius with our company. She’s changed the trajectory of dance forever and we are elated to now be a part of that legacy.”

Tharp’s career began almost 50 years ago when she opened Twyla Tharp Dance at the tender age of 23. From the beginning, Tharp pushed boundaries and would ultimately create a dance vocabulary all her own. Her 1973 ballet Deuce Coupe, set to music by the Beach Boys, was revolutionary and became the first ever “cross-over” ballet, mixing pop music and modern movement with classical ballet.

Even bigger imaginings and collaborations followed, including the Tony Award-winning Movin’ Out, to the music of Billy Joel, and the Broadway and Las Vegas sensation Come Fly With Me to the sounds of Frank Sinatra.

Like Tharp, Atlanta Ballet has also distinguished itself with pioneering partnerships, like the 2007 big with Andre “Big Boi” Patton of hip-hop duo OutKast and the 2004 Shed Your Skin with American Folk music duo Indigo Girls.

“It’s like we’re kindred spirits in a sense,” said McFall of Tharp and Atlanta Ballet. “Twyla has set herself apart artistically by pushing the envelope and Atlanta Ballet has ventured to do the same. As Atlanta Ballet looks towards its future and renewed artistic vision, it seems kismet that Twyla’s piece usher us into this new chapter.”

RWB’s André Lewis added: “Both the RWB and Atlanta Ballet are defined by risk-taking, and Ms. Tharp has selected our two internationally-renowned companies to collaborate on this exciting new project because of this shared value,” said RWB Artistic Director André Lewis. “This co-production represents a rare opportunity for artists from Canada, the United States and around the world to work together under the leadership of one of the world’s most influential choreographers. We are honored to be working with Ms. Tharp.”

Tharp will return to Atlanta this summer to begin choreographing the new work on Atlanta Ballet, which will include a series of preview events, before she returns for the February 2012 premiere at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

For updates on the Twyla Tharp Project, including upcoming preview dates and rehearsals, please visit the official Atlanta Ballet blog or the Atlanta Ballet website. To arrange interviews, or for access to high-resolution images and video footage, please contact Sigele Winbush at 404-862-2081 or via email at publicrelations@atlantaballet.com.

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 81 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.

About Canada’s Royal Winnipeg Ballet: Versatility, technical excellence and a captivating style are trademarks of Canada's Royal Winnipeg Ballet, qualities that have garnered both critical and audience acclaim. These qualities keep the Royal Winnipeg Ballet in demand as it presents more than 150 performances every season. Founded in 1939 by Gweneth Lloyd and Betty Farrally, RWB holds the distinction of being Canada’s premier ballet company. In 1953, the Company received its royal title, the first granted under the reign of Queen Elizabeth II. In the ensuing decades, RWB grew to take its place among the world's internationally renowned companies. In 1970, a professional school was created under the direction of David Moroni. Today two-thirds of the Company's dancers are graduates of the RWB School.