Press Release: Atlanta Ballet Presents 13/14 Season Finale & MAYhem


Atlanta Ballet Presents 13-14 Season Finale, “MAYhem”

Featuring World Premieres by Artistic Director John McFall and
New Resident Choreographer Helen Pickett
May 16-18, 2014 – Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre


(Jorma Elo’s 1st Flash. Photos by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet)

ATLANTA – April 15, 2014 – Atlanta Ballet will close its 84th season with MAYhem, a no-holds-barred explosion of creativity and energy that promises to catapult over the boundaries of contemporary dance, Friday, May 16 through Sunday, May 18 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

The mixed-repertory program will feature three works, including two world premieres – one by Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall and the other by the Company’s new resident choreographer Helen Pickett. Joining them on the bill will be Boston Ballet’s resident choreographer, Jorma Elo, whose “1st Flash” will be restaged after its 2012 Atlanta premiere.

MAYhem will also be the last time patrons can see company dancer Christine Winkler center stage, as she’ll be retiring this season after 19 years with Atlanta Ballet. Winkler will perform in Pickett’s world premiere during the Saturday and Sunday matinees and will also dance her “swan song” during a special farewell presentation immediately following the evening performance on Saturday, May 17. The piece will be one of Winkler’s favorites – “Berceuse” by choreographer Diane Coburn Bruning, which she’ll share with fellow company dancer and husband John Welker.

Also retiring this season is company dancer Abigail Tan-Gamino, who joined Atlanta Ballet in 2010. Tan-Gamino will dance in all four performances of MAYhem as a part of the cast of John McFall’s world premiere.  

WORLD PREMIERE – “THREE” by Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director John McFall, Music by Various Composers

It’s a journey into the subconscious mind with John McFall’s new work titled “THREE” – the artistic director’s first world premiere for the Company since his acclaimed “The Firebird” more than five years ago.

Through his uniquely imaginative and stylized choreography, McFall will endeavor to explore the powerful and enduring effects of dreams, which he believes significantly impact life experiences and ultimately become partners in shaping who we are.  

“I have always been interested in the process of dreaming and how dreams relay messages to the dreamer,” said McFall. “With such a wide-open and surreal concept, there are no limitations to where the story and work can go. Each audience member, like a dreamer, can find unique symbolism and meaning in the choreography, staging, and characters.”


To convey this concept, McFall has enlisted 14 of his Company dancers to create the whimsical dreamscape. The single cast will consist of veterans like Tara Lee and Jonah Hooper as well as up-and-comers like apprentice Kiara Felder and fellowship dancers Stephanie Hall and Jessica Guda.

“I have always enjoyed creating new works on the Company, because it gives me a chance to showcase the impressive range of talent we have at Atlanta Ballet,” said McFall. “As artistic director, I have worked with them very closely, so I know their strengths and personalities, which I’ve, in turn, been able to infuse into the piece. ‘THREE’ is as much inspired by the power of dreams and the subconscious as by the incredible abilities of these artists.”

The music of “THREE” will be as diverse as its cast of dancers, featuring a wide variety of composers and artists, including Radiohead, David Wong, Steve Reich and Elliott Carter Cole.

WORLD PREMIERE – “The Exiled” by Choreographer Helen Pickett, Music by John Corigliano

Atlanta Ballet’s new resident choreographer Helen Pickett is one of the most in-demand contemporary dance makers of her generation.  Over the past 15 years, after transitioning from a successful career as a dancer, she has created and staged more than 25 works for companies around the world, including two for Atlanta Ballet: fan favorites “Petal “(2011) and “Prayer of Touch” (2012). Her internationally-acclaimed choreography has become known for its ability to enliven the senses and create connections between the dancers and the audience that are intimately palpable, uniting them on a shared physical, sensual and emotional journey.

Pickett’s MAYhem premiere promises to follow suit, but this time with a twist – the addition of text.

The work – her first Atlanta Ballet premiere since being named resident choreographer in 2012 - will also be her first narrative ballet, a piece inspired by the Existentialist movement that will tell the story of three characters, trapped by their unwise life decisions and the two Reckoners that make them pay the price with eternal conflict.

For Pickett, combining theater and dance is not an unusual combination. As an accomplished actress herself, she has first-hand experience with the intersection of the art forms and has collaborated often with video artists, filmmakers and stage directors.

"I believe performance is performance," said Pickett in a 2013 Creative Loafing interview about the work and the relationship between theater and dance. "We're trying to get to the person. As long as the person is up there, as long as the audience is connecting, we are rapt, whether that person is 'acting' or 'dancing.' I feel like that's what I have to give, to keep making work that doesn't have a separation."

ENCORE PRESENTATION – “1st Flash” by Boston Ballet Resident Choreographer Jorma Elo, Music by Jean Sibelius

Power, energy and athleticism are paramount in choreographer Jorma Elo's ultra-modern “1st Flash.”

A former hockey goalie, Elo’s dance career began on the ice when he turned to ballet to improve his flexibility - and found he was quite good. Elo has now become one of the most distinctive choreographic voices in the industry and was even singled out as a "talent to follow" by Anna Kisselgoff in her 2004 Year in Review for The New York Times.

His style is distinct, and a daring physicality infiltrates all his works, characterized by movements that swivel precariously off-kilter, only to resume balance with total grace and control. His “1st Flash” is no different, joining elegance, style, speed and agility.

"Jorma Elo's ‘1st Flash’ is a reminder that the young Finnish choreographer has already developed an unmistakable for me, I wish it would never end,” said the Boston Globe.

Atlanta Ballet first performed the work in 2012, and patrons and dancers have longed for its return since. “When I learned we were doing Jorma Elo’s ‘1st Flash’ again, I was beyond excited,” said Atlanta Ballet dancer Nadia Mara, who will reprise her 2012 role in the ballet. “The movement and music complement each other perfectly, and it’s such a joy to dance.”

MAYhem is Atlanta Ballet’s fifth and final production of the 13-14 season and will run for four performances Friday, May 16 through Sunday, May 18 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. Tickets start as low as $20 and are on sale now. To purchase, visit or call 404-892-3303.


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, follow us on Twitter @atlantaballet, and like us on Facebook at