Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Something old, something new, something local: Atlanta Ballet's Sheer Exhilaration

Posted By on Wed, May 5, 2010 at 10:00 AM

click to enlarge Atlanta Ballet
  • Atlanta Ballet

As the season closer to their 80th anniversary, Atlanta Ballet presents "Sheer Exhilaration" on May 6-9 at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The kaleidoscopic range of moods and styles in the show includes moments of perky flair, poised refinement, and pronounced drama.  The familiar, elegant geometries of great ballet are present, along with surprising injections of fresh choreography.  Consisting of nearly a dozen dances, the concert highlights Atlanta Ballet’s versatility through celebrating the classics (excerpts of epic works from the cannon like "Serenade" and "Don Quixote") and embracing the invention of contemporary work, including pieces by local choreographers.

Here is a glimpse into the homegrown work featured in the production.

"Zugzwang": Created by Emily and Matt Kent, in collaboration with Denise Moscardelli. The Kents work extensively with Pilobolus Dance Theater, and co-direct Pickleshoes, a youth-focused dance company.

Named for the German word meaning compulsion to move (often, describing a scenario in chess), this intimate duet presents a loose narrative about an entangled relationship. The dancers reciprocate an ongoing series of lifts – hefting, melding and wrapping their bodies in an emotionally charged exchange. Unlike a traditional pas de duex in which the man serves as workhorse to showcase the female form, in "Zugzwang", says Matt Kent, “the female drives the motion and the psychological movement in the piece.”

In teaching the dance to Atlanta Ballet performers, the Kents sought emotional honesty and an authentic approach to the material. “We spent a lot of time on pedestrian movement, natural movement, and being theatrical in a naturalistic way – something that may be uncommon for their practice”, says Matt. “They were so game, so committed. I hope that when they perform it, they feel that it leaves a mark not only on the audience, but on the Atlanta Ballet as well.”

"Lost": Created by Ivan Pulinkala, Associate Professor and Director of the Dance Program at Kennesaw State University.

A soloist unfurls his limbs, recoils and then reaches, as if trying to anchor himself within the vacancy beyond. As he articulates his joints, rotates and revolves, he manifests an architectural sculpture of solitude.  In the minimalist score, a woman chants in an operatic voice, recounting what she has lost: my socks, my tooth, my wits.

Ivan Pulinkala created this choreographic meditation on loss for John Welker, an Atlanta Ballet company member and KSU dance major. During the process of building the work, they spoke intimately about the emotional life of solitude and loss, along with “the ideas in life that trigger memory”, says Pulinkala. Throughout the work, a community of movers occasion through the space, serving as phantom figures that join, wait and witness. Pulinkala describes them as embodiments of the soloist’s past, “his ancestors and loved ones who have died and continually watch over him, or guide him.”

The inclusion of Pulinkala’s work on this weekend’s concert “is a particular honor” he says, “because it’s a celebration of the past, present and future of Atlanta Ballet.” Pulinkala hopes to help inscribe that future as he evolves the ongoing partnership between Atlanta Ballet and KSU. The venture allows company dancers to work towards degrees, while providing professional artistic opportunities for undergraduates.

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