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Atlanta Ballet Notes ("Mayhem" etc.)

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I attended two performances of Atlanta Ballet this past season. One was last week, the final program of the regular season, which--in recent years--has been marketed under the title "Mayhem."What brought me to the theater was a chance to see a ballet by Yuri Possokhov, "Classical Symphony." Many on this website have seen it with the San Francisco ballet I imagine. Mr. Drew's comment as soon as the curtain came down was a heartfelt "That was worth coming to see" and I agree: an enjoyable and, at times, quite ingenious classical showcase well danced by the Atlanta Ballet dancers. I especially enjoyed the leads (Christian Clark and Jackie Nash) and demi-soloists (notably Yoomi Kim and, always compulsively watchable, Alessa Rogers). Pre-publicity for the performance indicated that this was Jackie Nash's first lead for the Atlanta Ballet which she joined last season. I thought she was terrific in a very challenging and showy role. (Well, I caught one tiny bobble coming out of a turn and Clark, standing behind her at that moment, seemed to be watching her very carefully, but she immediately got back on track.)

The work was very warmly received and got by far and away the loudest and most spontaneous cheers of the evening. Wish Atlanta Ballet would do more neo-classical work of this kind. The dancers CAN dance it and the audiences DO appreciate it. (Unfortunately for this performance the company used recorded music.)

The first work on the program, Angels' Share, had live music--in a pre-ballet introductory video (every work on the program was introduced with a short video), the choreographer John Heginbotham mentioned that when he started working with the company, the director had mentioned the possibility of live music--as long as he used a chamber work. Heginbotham, who used to dance with Mark Morris, emphasized the beauty of his chosen score joking (in a way that recalled Balanchine) that even if you "hate" ballet, you can close your eyes and enjoy the music etc., though he added that he hoped you woudn't. Anyway, I found him very personable and found the music, (Dohnanyi), in fact, unbelievably, to-die-for beautiful. I'm afraid I found the choreography itself rather bland in a vaguely lyrical contemporary ballet vein.

The final work on the program was Alexander Eckman's Cacti. He introduced it in the introductory video (and program notes) by openly describing it as the product of his ressentiment towards dance critics. One can only imagine what he thinks of fans on message boards. He wants to satirize pompous criticism and (I think) obscure experimentation, but--to put it politely--I don't think his own tone is easy to pin down.

Here and there I thought an idea was taking shape that I found semi-interesting especially the very ending which I actually kind of liked (with the dancers walking towards the audience, holding their props, a voiceover asking again and again if this was coming to an end, was indeed the end, should be the end, etc.). But mostly I found the work too scattered to become genuinely interesting. The humor didn't do anything for me either, though I believe my irritation at the male dancer voiceover in which "he" calls his partner a bitch means--according to the terms of the rest of the work's voiceovers--that I am a pretentious intellectual....so I forbear further comment.

The other Atlanta Ballet performance I made it to this year was the return to Atlanta Ballet of Maillot's Romeo and Juliet with Alessa Rogers and Christian Clark. I saw the season's final performance and the two of them pulled out all of the emotional stops--giving a still more powerful, moving, and beautiful performance than they had last year and that performance had been plenty powerful, moving, and beautiful. But what was just as exciting: the whole company seemed more in command of the ballet than they had when they debuted the ballet; dancers (many of whom were reappearing in the same roles they had danced last season) danced with greater power and vividness--I would say greater confidence. Dancers new to the ballet (such as Tara Lee as Lady Capulet) also brought new strength to the cast. Seeing Maillot's ballet for a second time confirmed for me, too, that it is at the very least a refreshing balletic take on Prokoviev's much staged score, though I think it's more than that actually. A wonderful performance--huge cheers for the whole company.

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