Update from Artistic Director John McFall

Summertime provides an opportunity to look onto our horizon, imagine, and plan what Atlanta Ballet will present in future seasons. There is time to attend dance festivals and, meet with choreographers, and other collaborators who will contribute to our repertoire. Parts of Atlanta Ballet’s 13-14 Season were identified and put into motion several years ago so summertime is the last chance to sort through details with collaborators who will soon join us.

In particular, the process of bringing Roméo et Juliette choreographed by Jean-Christophe Maillot, Artistic Director of Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo, began in earnest in 2010. This signature work by Mr. Maillot is a distinctive interpretation of the Shakespeare classic. Jean-Christophe was very particular when considering our request to perform this work. He wanted to be assured that we had exceptional dancers, a fine orchestra, production values of the highest standards.

As a result we hosted two representatives from Les Ballets de Monte-Carlo during our performances of Princess and the Goblin, Bernice Coppieters, originator of the Juliette role and Giavanna Lorenzoni, ballet mistress. Their impression of Atlanta Ballet was very positive. They absolutely adored the Company, and we were on our way.

This summer, I visited Edinburgh where we met up with our friend who recently was appointed artistic director of Scottish Royal Ballet, Christopher Hampson. Atlanta Ballet commissioned Christopher for world premieres twice. His second commission, Rite of Spring, was performed by Scottish Ballet during the festival. Another premiere during the festival was created by our own choreographer in residence, Helen Pickett. She incidentally received an enthusiastic review in the The London Times.

Helen is creating a premiere for our May 2014 program and working on a narrative ballet based on a play for our March 2015 program. The narrative work will feature an original score commissioned by Atlanta Ballet. Peter Salem, an English composer living and working in London, joined Helen and me in Edinburgh to discuss the project. There is keen interest to move forward, and we will keep you informed of our progress in the coming months.

Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education is also a bee-hive of activity in summer. Throngs of enthusiastic students from all over the world fill our studios. Premiere guest faculty, Company dancers, artistic staff, and choreographers, all join together to share their illustrious histories with these aspiring dance students. Each week culminates in performance presentations. It is a challenging process rehearsing and preparing for these shows. It is likened to the life of a professional dancer. As the students poise themselves to begin they hide their nervousness with straight backs and looks of assurance. Their energy is boundless. They finish each week exhilarated and proud of their accomplishments. It is interesting to note that many of our Fellowship dancers are identified from students who attend the summer course.

There is a synergy in the summer training process. Company dancers mentor students, who are looking to follow in their footsteps. This is how you learn to dance. This is how you evolve into a professional artist. It is like a Renaissance guild. People learning from people. The teaching process empowers the teacher as much as the student. Listening, responding, helping and supporting.

John McFall
Artistic Director

John McFall. Photo by Charlie McCullers.