Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker Returns to the Fox Theatre this Holiday Season
ATLANTA (October 11, 2016) – Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker returns to the Fox Theatre Friday, December 9 through Saturday, December 24 with the Atlanta Ballet Orchestra and the Georgia Youth Choir live for all 19 performances. This whimsical holiday spectacular will officially kick off new artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin’s first performance season with the Company.
Set in the elaborate Moorish décor of Atlanta’s Fox Theatre, this unique production of the beloved Nutcracker tale takes 20 pounds of snow, eight tons of scenery, lighting and props, and a 38-foot-tall Christmas tree to make the magic of Marya’s unbelievable story come to life.
Now it its 21st production and featuring choreography from former artistic director John McFall, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker continues to be a treasured holiday tradition shared by multiple generations. More than 200 of Atlanta’s young dancers will join the Atlanta Ballet professional company to bring the holiday season to life with exquisite dancing, fanciful characters, and a thrilling trip into the Sugar Candy Kingdom.
Adding a bittersweet element to this year’s Nutcracker season, Atlanta Ballet will bid a fond adieu to veteran company dancer John Welker, who will take his final bow after an extraordinary career that has spanned more than two decades. A production particularly near and dear to his heart, Welker has fittingly chosen Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker to be his final performance, bringing his career as a professional performer full circle.
“Like many in the United States, Nutcracker was the production that introduced me to the magic of theatre and dance,” Welker recalls. “As an 11-year-old boy, I can remember the awe and exhilaration I felt just being in the theatre. The boundaries of possibility opened to me, my world became larger. And while it was exhilarating and slightly scary, I always felt excitement to be in the midst of the greatness and grandeur of my dreams.”
Welker goes on to express the significance of selecting this quintessential story ballet as his final performance. “This is the magic it held for me, so I cannot think of a better production than Nutcracker to perform and take the final bow of my dancing career,” he said. “I dedicate my final Nutcracker performances to all the young-at-heart and wide-eyed children in the audience who I hope will be inspired to follow their dreams, just as I did. In the holiday season of giving and thanks, I thank you all!”
Welker joined the Company in 1995 with his then soon-to-be-wife, Christine Winkler, at the request of Atlanta Ballet’s third artistic director, John McFall. Both Welker and Winkler were company dancers at Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah, before receiving the offer to make the move to Atlanta. Over the past 22 seasons, audiences have watched Welker transform from an eager and ambitious 18-year-old to a strong and fearless artist and leader.
Since his inaugural season, Welker has danced countless lead roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Albrect in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote, Cavalier in Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Dracula in Michael Pink’s Dracula, and Principal Male in John McFall’s Firebird. Throughout his career, Welker has been an inspiration and mentor to young dancers as he and Winkler served as co-directors of Atlanta Ballet’s Pre-Professional Summer Intensive Programs from 2006 to 2014. He is also the founder of and ballet master for Wabi Sabi – Atlanta Ballet’s summer series and one of the city’s most exciting dance initiatives – which combines Atlanta’s own emerging choreographers with beautiful and engaging venues for amazing outdoor performances that bring art to the people.
“I'm indebted to all the people to whom I owe the preciousness of my experience at Atlanta Ballet: my wife, Christine, and son, Lucas, my family, all of my teachers, my beautiful fellow dancers, the amazing staff, and the Atlanta audiences who have always been there for me,” Welker says while reflecting on his career. “I hope I have made you all proud. For it is in all of you I found myself and realized the fulfillment of my dreams as a dancer and artist.”
For more information about Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker and to purchase tickets, please visit www.atlantaballet.com/nutcracker. Performance tickets start as low as $25 and are on sale now. Tickets can be purchased by phone at 1.855.285.8499, in person at the Fox Theatre Box Office and the Atlanta Ballet Box Office, or online here. For groups of ten or more, please call Atlanta Ballet Group Sales at 404.873.5811, ext. 207. More information about John Welker’s final performances will to be announced.
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About John Welker:
John trained at BalletMet Dance Academy, the School of American Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, and Bolshoi Ballet Academy in Vail, Colo. John’s roles with Atlanta Ballet include Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Albrect in Giselle, Basilio in Don Quixote, Cavalier in Atlanta Ballet's Nutcracker, Romeo in Romeo & Juliet, Dracula in Michael Pink’s Dracula, and Principal Male in John McFall’s Firebird. He has also been featured in James Kudelka’s The Four Seasons and Alexei Ratmansky’s Seven Sonatas. John has recently worked with choreographers Christopher Hampson, Victor Quijada, Helen Pickett, Twyla Tharp, Jorma Elo, Ohad Naharin, and Tara Lee. For the past six years, John has served as ballet master of Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi, and, for seven years, he has served as mentor at Atlanta Ballet’s Summer Intensive. He is a dance major at Kennesaw State University and looks to pursue a graduate degree in arts administration. John and his wife Christine have their hands full with their two-year-old son, Lucas. Sponsored by Lynda Courts.
About Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker:
Atlanta Ballet first brought Nutcracker to the stage in 1959, performing George Balanchine’s version of the timeless tale. In that year, Atlanta Ballet was the only company outside of New York City Ballet allowed to perform this signature piece thanks to Atlanta Ballet’s then Associate Artistic Director Robert Barnett, who had danced with Balanchine at New York City Ballet. “We gave it as a gift,” says Barnett, “inviting children from all counties to come in and see the performance. It was a gift from Mr. Balanchine, and he never charged us a cent for doing it.” From that day forward, Nutcracker became one of Atlanta’s most beloved holiday annual events. In 1995, Atlanta Ballet’s third artistic director, John McFall, created a brand new Nutcracker for the city of Atlanta. McFall’s vision was to create a Nutcracker that was “traditional yet new, familiar yet different, classic yet contemporary and above all magical.” Each Nutcracker season for his 21 years at Atlanta Ballet, McFall added a special touch to the production in an effort to keep it vibrant and fresh. Perfect for all ages, Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker continues to delight and spark the imagination of the child within us all.
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