Spring Concert showcases the next generation of choreographers

Ghostpipes by Paxton Speight

Aside from performing in Cinderella and alongside company dancers this season in La Sylphide, The Nutcracker, Coco Chanel: The Life of a Fashion, and Kaleidoscope, a number of Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers are also showcasing their choreographic talents. At the annual Centre for Dance Education Spring Concert this week, six Atlanta Ballet 2 members have jumped at the opportunity to choreograph pieces on their fellow dancers. And while some have already previously ventured into choreography, for others, it is their first time.

You can see three of the Atlanta Ballet 2 choreographic works - Ven Pronto by Santiago Bedoya, Ghostpipes by Paxton Speight, and Violin Concerto by Emanuel Talongo - along with performances by Centre for Dance Education Academy students, at their Spring Concert on Friday, April 19, at 6:30pm. Tickets are complimentary and you can register here.

Read on to find out more about the works of Santiago Bedoya, Claire Buchi, Camille Jackson, Joaquin Ruiz, Paxton Speight, and Emanuel Talongo, their unique choreographic journeys, and what you can expect to see on stage at Spring Concert 2024.

Ven Pronto by Santiago Bedoya

Santiago Bedoya | Ven Pronto

Santiago Bedoya has always had a strong desire to transfer his vision of movement to artists, as well as to create and share the joy of dance. In his first choreographic piece, Ven Pronto, he aspires to showcase a new perspective of his home country, Colombia, all the while setting an atmosphere that will reflect the music as much as it will the dance. As a young boy in Colombia, Santiago fondly remembers his first folk dances. “When I was eight years old, I recall seeing a show called “Colombia Viva” by Ballet Folklórico de Antioquia, a company that showcased various dance styles from different regions of the country. The different colors, lights and joyful faces determined a particular path for me and I spent the next three years taking folk dance classes in conjunction with ballet. As an accomplished dancer now, I want to be able to remember my roots, nurture this style of dance, and take it to the next level.” Santiago has thoroughly enjoyed working with his colleagues. “There is nothing I admire more than dedication,” he explains. “These dancers showcased professionalism and enthusiasm from day one, and as a choreographer I was able to become one with them and build something together.” Santiago is also cognizant of the personal journey every dancer takes in the studio, and how it can be humbling to open a box of aspirations and fears among such a diverse and group of people. “At the same time, this is the perfect combination for success in many aspects of life. We need vulnerability in order to grow and evolve.”

Rosetta by Claire Buchi

Claire Buchi | Rosetta

Claire Buchi is extremely honored to have the opportunity to work with eight amazing Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers to create her piece entitled Rosetta. While she has co-choreographed contemporary works with other students at the San Francisco Ballet School in the past, this is her first time working solo to create a large-scale piece for the main stage. Claire was first inspired to create this piece in 2022 when she had the opportunity to visit the British Museum and see the Rosetta Stone. Engraved in 196 BCE, the Rosetta Stone holds a singular message written in three different languages, the first of which being Egyptian hieroglyphics. When it was discovered nearly 2,000 years later, it became the keystone for decoding an immense wealth of knowledge from ancient Egypt that modern humans would have never otherwise been able to understand. “Language can be divisive, and it is easy to tune others out when you don't understand what they are saying, but translation can be a powerful tool to help uncover the many similarities that exist between communities,” she explains. “In Rosetta, audiences can expect to see different languages expressed through different styles of dance. On the broader level, dance as a whole can be seen as a unique translator because movement as a means of expression is universal.” Creating this piece on Ashley McKoy, Avery Jarrard, Dyhan Pierre, Estefania Ontanilla, Ícaro Queiros, Isabella Kessler, Mayu Nayakama and Paxton Speight has been so much fun for Claire. “I love dancing alongside them every day, and I feel so grateful for their dedication, creativity, and positivity throughout the whole rehearsal process. I can't wait to watch them take this piece to the theater and look forward to having hopefully another opportunity to work with them soon!”

It Sounds Like Nostalgia by Camille Jackson

Camille Jackson | It Sounds like Nostalgia

Camille Jackson is no stranger to choreography, having choreographed three short Spring Concert pieces during her time in Academy, as well as a short solo at the Pittsburgh Ballet Theater School Summer Session. At the 2024 Spring Concert, Camille will be presenting It Sounds Like Nostalgia, inspired by television and film from the 1950s and 1960s, in particular shows and movies such as “I Love Lucy” and “Roman Holiday”, and actors and actresses James Dean, Rock Hudson and Audrey Hepburn. “I wanted it to be almost a period piece,” enthuses Camille. “My aim was for the dancers to get theatrical during many moments in the piece, to give more context to my vision.” Camille kept “I Love Lucy” top of mind during her creative process; audiences can expect to see moments that are ‘campy’ or over theatrical. Because of the short time frame and creating with a small group of dancers, Camille couldn’t set a full 30-minute ballet, so she concentrated on establishing her vision, selecting music and costumes, and creating with small but sure movements. It has been a fun, but challenging experience. “When I am choreographing for my peers, I’m a strong believer in finding balance. I don’t want to cross any lines because at the end of the day, many of these dancers are my friends and we’re all part of the same second company. On the other hand, this choreography has my name on it so I have to show authority in order to gain respect as the person in the front of the room.” Camille is certainly keeping an eye on the future and loved all aspects of the visionary and creative process. “We had a meeting with Abby Parker and Dave Smith for costumes and lighting. It was exciting because for It Sounds Like Nostalgia specifically, I would love, one day, to create a longer ballet with props, scenery and a fuller cast. This year brought me closer to that dream!”

Two by Two by Joaquin Ruiz

Joaquin Ruiz | Two by Two

Joaquin Ruiz performed a self-choreographed solo as a 16-year-old student at the Colborn School of Dance Academy, and also choreographed several pieces for student shows and outreach performances whilst at Indiana University Ballet Theater. His Spring Concert 2024 piece is entitled Two by Two. The vision was two short pas de deux, and the piece features two couples, two dances, two men and two composers. “Perhaps one day these pas de deux could fit into a larger ballet,” he aspires. “I wanted the costumes and lighting to be clean and straightforward so as to focus primarily on the dancer bodies and the dance itself.” Two by Two depicts two relationships. The first is more mysterious, melancholic, and more dramatic in tone. The second is lighter and more youthful. While there is no story or deliberate message, the ballet does explore how different relationships interact, particularly how we resist, support, conflict, and trust one another. “The result of those interactions is up to the audience, but just like any relationship the ballet isn’t black and white”, he explains. “It’s complex, messy at times, loving at other times, and it doesn’t always end the way we initially hoped.” Joaquin believes working with fellow Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers has a lot of advantages. “We bring to the studio all the comfort and trust we have developed as colleagues and friends. That creates a really fertile ground to experiment and problem solve, without fear of judgement or repercussion. It’s a fun time of year to be creative and empower each other!” Joaquin is incredibly excited about the huge amount of talent displayed by Atlanta Ballet 2 dancers. “Each of them brings so much technique, artistry, intelligence and individuality. It’s truly an honor to see my ideas come to life with that talent and it’s exciting to see them execute not only what I had in mind, but to push my ideas even further.”

Ghostpipes by Paxton Speight

Paxton Speight | Ghostpipes

Ghostpipes is Paxton Speight’s second Spring Concert piece, having choreographed Smile, They’re Watching (A Sunshine Dance) in 2023. “Ghostpipes, in simple terms, is about spirituality,” explains Paxton. “More so about the individual journey one takes through the most traumatic and joyous events in life and what one learns through those journeys that makes them who they are. Ghostpipes explores both the idea of what one decides to pass on to others and the personal (and sometimes scary) journey one takes through exploring their spirituality.” Ghostpipes is a two-movement, modern ballet set to Misa Criolla by Ariel Ramírez, inspired by indigenous Latin American folk rhythms and instruments. The lyrics are a Spanish translation of the Latin liturgy found in the traditional Catholic progression of mass, starting with Kyrie and ending with Agnus Dei. Paxton uses the first two movements: Kyrie, which highlights the ‘before spiritual experience’ aspect of the piece and gives it an enigmatic ambiance, and Gloria, which represents finding purpose for one’s life and sharing the worldly knowledge they have acquired and contrasts with a sense of warmth and vibrancy. Extending the vision into costume design, Ghostpipes involves the use of loose fabric to create the illusion of wind blowing when the dancers run, or a sense of weight when they are to convey desperation or encumbrance. For Paxton, being able to share his perspective on life through dance is an experience like no other. “There are many emotions attached to this piece, but I think in a general sense, having the opportunity to share something like this through the means in which we are able allows us to unlock a previously unattainable part of ourselves, which is sometimes out of our comfort zone.”

Violin Concerto by Emanuel Talongo

Emanuel Talongo | Violin Concerto

Violin Concerto, set to and inspired by beautiful Bach music, is Emanuel Talongo’s second choreographic venture for the Spring Concert, having choreographed Libertango in 2023. In Violin Concerto, Emanuel envisages the dancers as paint and the stage as the canvas where they paint with their dance movements. He loves to showcase the dancers’ talent through his choreography, with a particular focus on highlighting their technical strength. “The opening dance sets the mood for the entire piece, then the second dance will only feature female dancers as I wanted to show their beauty and strength. You will see just the men on stage for the first have of the third dance, with a highlight on big jumps and turns. The female dancers the join them for the second half and they close the entire piece together in a grand finale.” Emanuel has enjoyed setting a ballet on his peers. “It’s actually quite interesting as you are in charge of making decisions and giving orders to your friends. But we always have a good time. What excites me the most about Violin Concerto is watching it all come together, seeing the hard work pay off and being incredibly proud how we bloomed together.”

Atlanta Ballet 2 is Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education’s highest level of training that provides new performance opportunities for the next generation of professional dancers. The program was formed beginning the 2017|2018 Season and represents Atlanta Ballet’s continued commitment to training dancers for professional careers. Atlanta Ballet 2 is the pathway to becoming an Atlanta Ballet Company member.

Photos by Amber Times.