Maybe it’s Gaga technique, Gyrotonics, yoga or some combination of those. Maybe it’s the atmosphere, where dancers are nurtured as individual artists and where creativity is valued over commercialism. Whatever it is, something is happening at Atlanta Ballet, and audiences should take note.
Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director John McFall has repeatedly gifted Atlanta with stunning new repertoire that astonishes and intrigues audiences, but, more than that, it engages them. The 2013 NCV surpassed previous performances in every way. This year's performance offered three works that drastically differed from one another, and that dared the audience members to remain aloof from the action on the stage and in their midst.
Artistic director John McFall believed his classically trained Atlanta Ballet dancers were ready for the demanding contemporary choreography of Ohad Naharin.
The question was, would the white-hot Israeli choreographer share McFall’s leap of faith?
I thought this might be a “dancer’s evening” that might not feel accessible to the average Joe. Boy was I wrong!!
I’m telling you now, RUN, don’t walk to see this production!!! This is by far the most moving evening of dance I’ve ever seen!!! I’m not kidding. I openly wept during the second act.
He predicts that the world premiere of Patterson’s “I Am” will touch audiences deeply. He invited some of the company’s trustees to watch a rehearsal recently and was amazed at their reaction. “I looked over and saw all these trustees crying,” he says. “They didn’t just have watery eyes, they were sobbing. It’s not often that you get that kind of emotional response.”
It was both exhilarating and liberating, a mad rush of adrenaline. A friend who witnessed the moment said the smile on my face was the most genuine thing he’d seen in a long time. No wonder. Thursday night, I got back in touch with my inner child. And what child doesn’t dream of someday catching a beautiful ballerina?
The three unique pieces will surprise you with their clever beauty, and the company has integrated interesting packaging that invites you to really feel like you are involved in the performance.
The three short pieces that make up the Atlanta Ballet's New Choreographic Voices are abstract works without specific characters, settings or stories, but nonetheless there's about as much drama on stage as you'd ever want in an evening at the theater.
The past few weeks have been a blur for Atlanta Ballet’s Tara Lee. There are daily rehearsals for a world premiere by choreographer Helen Pickett, called “Prayer of Touch,” in which Lee has a leading role. Then, after that, there’s a second daily rehearsal for yet another world premiere, “Pavo,” choreographed by … Tara Lee.
Atlanta Ballet dancer Tara Lee describes “Pavo” as a story of transformation, the struggle to recognize the unhealthy cycles we adopt in life and the greater struggle to break free of them.
Throughout her career with the ballet, Lee says it's been the company's collaborative and democratic environment that has kept her there for 16 seasons, and that it helped make "Pavo" the piece it is. "'Pavo' is obviously material that could never have been created with just me or just them," she says of the company. "This had to happen collectively. My intent from the beginning was that this was going to come through all of us. It wasn't necessarily going to be 'my ballet.' It was just something I was guiding."
In rehearsal for her new work “Prayer of Touch,” New York-based choreographer Helen Pickett watches intently as Atlanta Ballet veteran Tara Lee darts across the studio, her tiny, muscular body just barely glistening with sweat as she performs a complicated, lightning-quick movement sequence.
A cast of emerging choreographers in the Atlanta Ballet’s now annual season closer will present a mixed repertory program beginning tonight at the Alliance Stage of the Woodruff Arts Center in Atlanta.
Choreographer, Minus 16
Ohad Naharin has been hailed as one of the world’s preeminent contemporary choreographers. As Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company since 1990, he has guided the company with an adventurous artistic vision and reinvigorated its repertory with his captivating choreography. Naharin is also the originator of an innovative movement language, Gaga, which has enriched his extraordinary movement invention, revolutionized the company’s training, and emerged as a growing force in the larger field of movement practices for both dancers and non-dancers.
Born in 1952 on Kibbutz Mizra, Ohad Naharin began his dance training with the Batsheva Dance Company in 1974. During his first year with the company, visiting choreographer Martha Graham singled out Naharin for his talent and invited him to join her own company in New York. While in New York, Naharin studied on scholarship at the School of American Ballet, furthered his training at The Juilliard School, and polished his technique with master teachers Maggie Black and David Howard. He went on to perform internationally with Israel’s Bat-Dor Dance Company and Maurice Béjart’s Ballet du XXe Siècle in Brussels.
Naharin returned to New York in 1980, making his choreographic debut at the Kazuko Hirabayshi studio. That year, he formed the Ohad Naharin Dance Company with his wife, Mari Kajiwara, who died of cancer in 2001. From 1980 until 1990, Naharin’s company performed in New York and abroad to great critical acclaim. As his choreographic voice developed, he received commissions from world-renowned companies including Batsheva, Kibbutz Contemporary Dance Company, and Nederlands Dans Theater.
Naharin was appointed Artistic Director of Batsheva Dance Company in 1990 and has served in this role except for the 2003-2004 season, when he held the title of House Choreographer. During his tenure with the company, Naharin has choreographed over 20 works for Batsheva and its junior division, Batsheva Ensemble. He has also restaged over 10 of his dances for the company and recombined excerpts from his repertory to create Deca Dance, a constantly evolving evening-length work.
Naharin trained in music throughout his youth, and he has often used his musical prowess to amplify his choreographic impact. He has collaborated with several notable musical artists to create scores for his dances, including Israeli rock group The Tractor’s Revenge (for Kyr, 1990), Avi Belleli and Dan Makov (for Anaphaza, 1993), and Ivri Lider (for Z/na, 1995). Under the pseudonym Maxim Waratt, Naharin composed music for MAX (2007) and edited and mixed the soundtracks for Mamootot (2003) and Hora (2009). Naharin also combined his talents for music and dance in Playback (2004), a solo evening which he directed and performed.
In addition to his work for the stage, Naharin has pioneered Gaga, an innovative movement language. Gaga, which emphasizes the exploration of sensation and availability for movement, is now the primary training method for Batsheva’s dancers. Gaga has also attracted a wide following among dancers around the world and appealed to the general public in Israel, where open classes are offered regularly in Tel Aviv and other locations.
Naharin’s compelling choreographic craft and inventive, supremely textured movement vocabulary have made him a favorite guest artist in dance companies around the world. His works have been performed by prominent companies including Nederlands Dans Theater, Ballet Frankfurt, Lyon Opera Ballet, Compañía Nacional de Danza (Spain), Cullberg Ballet (Sweden), the Finnish National Ballet, the Paris Opera Ballet, Balé da Cidade de São Paulo, Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet (New York), Hubbard Street Dance Chicago, and Les Grand Ballets Canadiens de Montréal. Naharin’s rehearsal process with Cedar Lake Contemporary Ballet during a restaging of Deca Dance was the subject of Tomer Heymann’s documentary Out of Focus (2007).
Naharin’s rich contributions to the field of dance have garnered him many awards and honors. In Israel, he has received a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Weizmann Institute of Science (2004), the prestigious Israel Prize for dance (2005), a Jewish Culture Achievement Award by The Foundation for Jewish Culture (2008), a Doctor of Philosophy honoris causa by the Hebrew University (2008), and the EMET Prize in the category of Arts and Culture (2009). Naharin has also been the recipient of the Chevalier de l'Ordre des Arts et des Lettres from the French government (1998), two New York Dance and Performance (Bessie) Awards (for Naharin's Virus at the Brooklyn Academy of Music in 2002 and for Anaphaza at the Lincoln Center Festival in 2003), the Samuel H. Scripps American Dance Festival Award for Lifetime Achievement (2009), and a Dance Magazine Award (2009).
Choreographer, I AM
Gina Patterson has been hailed as a choreographer of “startling originality” (Back Stage) and “a standout on the soulful front” (Sun-Sentinel). She was awarded the Choo San Goh Award for Choreography and the B. Iden Payne Award for Outstanding Choreographer, and she was selected five times for the Ballet Builder's Showcase in New York. Her work has been presented at numerous festivals, including in Italy, Germany, Slovenia, Mexico, and Spain. She is a winner of the Hubbard Street 2 National Choreographic Competition and the National Choreographic Initiative in California. Ms. Patterson has created original works for VOICE, Richmond Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, CoDa21, DanceWorks Chicago, Ballet Austin, Ballet Concierto, Nashville Ballet, MADCO (Dance St. Louis/New Dance Horizons), Ballet Florida, Dayton Ballet, BalletMet, Ballet Pacifica, Ballet East, Point Park University, and the University of Iowa, among others. Ms. Patterson is known as a versatile, consummate performer of classical and contemporary principal roles. Over the last 25 years, she has danced with Pittsburgh Ballet Theater, Ballet Austin, Ballet Florida, American Repertory Ensemble, and as a guest artist in the U.S., Canada, Iceland, Greece, Switzerland, Germany, Italy, Slovenia, and France. Ms. Patterson is co-founder and artistic director of VOICE Dance Company and continues to perform, teach, coach, and choreograph.
Christopher Wheeldon joined The Royal Ballet in 1991. In 1993, he became a member of New York City Ballet, where he was promoted to soloist in 1998. He began choreographing for NYCB with Slavonic Dances for the 1997 Diamond Project. After creating Mercurial Manoeuvers for NYCB’s spring 2000 Diamond Project, Wheeldon retired from dancing to concentrate on his choreographic work. During the 2000-01 season, he served as NYCB’s first-ever resident choreographer, creating Polyphonia and Variations Sérieuses. Since then he has choreographed at least one ballet a year for NYCB, including Morphoses (2002), Liturgy (2003), An American in Paris (2005), Klavier (2006), and The Nightingale and the Rose (2007). Wheeldon also created notable works for San Francisco Ballet, The Royal Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet and the Bolshoi Ballet. Outside the ballet world, he choreographed pieces for the Metropolitan Opera’s La Gioconda (2006) and Carmen (2009) as well as ballet sequences for the film Center Stage (2000) and a Broadway version of Sweet Smell of Success (2002). In 2007, Wheeldon founded Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company. Other recent work includes the premieres of his new version of The Sleeping Beauty (2010) for The Royal Danish Ballet, his full-length Alice’s Adventures in Wonderland (2011) for The Royal Ballet, Thirteen Diversions (2011) for American Ballet Theatre, and Les Carillons (2012) for NYCB. He received the Martin E. Segal Award from Lincoln Center, the American Choreography Award, and the Dance Magazine Award. He won the London Critics’ Circle Award for Best New Ballet for Polyphonia, and the NYCB performance of the piece earned a Laurence Olivier Award. DGV: Danse à grande vitesse was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award in 2006, and the inaugural season of Morphoses won a South Bank Show Award.