Beginning next September, Atlanta Ballet’s 90th-anniversary season promises impressive variety, with nods to the company’s rich history and a turn toward diversity and inclusion.
The company announced its 2019–20 season lineup today, highlights of which include the return of Liam Scarlett’s sublime Vespertine, a new commission from Dwight Rhoden and guest performances by the globe-trotting company Rhoden codirects, Complexions Contemporary Ballet.
September’s season opener looks especially strong. Ricardo Amarante, whose humorous The Premiere showcased Atlanta Ballet dancers’ liveliness last fall, will restage Love Fear Loss, inspired by the life and music of French songstress Edith Piaf. That program will also feature a world premiere by Claudia Schreier, an up-and-comer who recently received the Princess Grace Award and has created work for Dance Theatre of Harlem — among others — as well as her own company. Schreier’s style draws from both contemporary and neoclassical approaches, but cursory viewing suggests her acute sensitivity to music is what pushes her toward invention in a uniquely compelling voice. Complexions Contemporary Ballet will also perform on that program.
On the heels of a production run at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., Atlanta Ballet will mount Yuri Possokhov’s The Nutcracker, in its second production run at the Fox Theatre. After that, February’s two-weekend run will feature a new commission from Rhoden, the director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet. His works have a no-holds-barred physicality, popular appeal and a spirit of inclusiveness and multiculturalism.
Gennadi Nedvigin, artistic director of Atlanta Ballet, said he first saw Rhoden’s choreography at San Francisco Ballet’s Unbound Festival and was impressed.
Complexions’ appearance, and commissions from Rhoden and Schreier, reflect Atlanta Ballet’s commitment to the goals of The Equity Project, an initiative to increase the presence of blacks in ballet. “We believe this is an important step for the entire ballet industry in moving toward greater diversity, equity and inclusion,” Nedvigin said. “We are excited to continue implementing its objectives while preserving our commitment to high artistic excellence.”
The February program will also feature Lar Lubovitch’s Elemental Brubeck, which the San Francisco Chronicle described as a “festive, knockout display, joyously evoking some of the greatest moments of American dance on film.” Lubovitch is well-known as a modern dance choreographer and has successfully crossed into the ballet world. Brubeck will be the first Lubovitch work to enter Atlanta Ballet’s repertoire.
Alexander Ekman’s Tuplet will complete February’s triple bill. It is Ekman’s second piece to be performed by Atlanta Ballet.
Also in February, Atlanta Ballet 2 will present Bruce Wells’ world-premiere version of the classic Swan Lake designed for young audiences. In March, Atlanta Ballet will perform its first production in more than 10 years of the romantic-era ballet Giselle — with its timeless themes of love, deception and forgiveness.
The 90th-anniversary season closer will look to the future, with a new ballet by Juliano Nuñes, a budding Brazilian choreographer and current dancer with the Royal Ballet of Flanders. Nuñes is known for the way his movement ebbs and flows to create imaginative and unexpected body configurations. Yuri Possokhov’s The Firebird will return, along with Craig Davidson’s Remembrance/Hereafter, set to Franz Schubert’s “Death and the Maiden“ performed live by a string quartet. This beautiful and intriguing work on death and memory is well worth revisiting.
Nedvigin believes the breadth of styles and emphasis on excellence reflect his predecessor’s visions. Dorothy Alexander, founder of the company, often presented programs that offered a wide range of dance styles and genres as part of a mission to educate audiences, and she forwarded the idea that a company’s distinct voice could be expressed through new choreography. Robert Barnett, who succeeded her and made the company fully professional in 1968, strengthened the company with Balanchine repertory — Atlanta Ballet was the first company outside of New York City Ballet to gain the rights to perform Balanchine repertoire. John McFall brought an appreciation of modern and contemporary styles that tapped the innovative spirit of a growing city.
“I am deeply inspired by Atlanta Ballet’s rich history, and feel honored to have the opportunity to assemble a performance season that reflects the company’s many accomplishments as we celebrate its 90th anniversary,” said Nedvigin. “Dorothy Alexander had a dream of bringing quality ballet to the Atlanta community, and that dream is instilled in me as well. With such a wide range of genres and dance styles performed by our immensely talented dancers, I hope she would be proud of what I have planned for Atlanta Ballet’s season-long 90th birthday celebration.”