by Rachel Hellwig
Atlanta Ballet’s “The Best of Modern Choreographic Voices” opens with “Seven Sonatas” by Alexei Ratmansky, a work originally created for American Ballet Theatre. A piano ballet, featuring live performance of Scarletti selections, it depicts three lyrical, windswept, and witty couples in white. Some of the most distinctive features of Ratmansky’s style are its improvisational quality and playful, sometimes irreverent use of classical ballet, as well as unexpected moments of humor. Hard-to-get, push-pull, please-don’t-go-yet courtships are highlighted in the pas de deuxs, often with comedy. When one man’s beloved skims offstage out of his reach, he merely shrugs and keeps dancing until she returns. Interestingly, intermittent somberness and the quiet ending hint at a more solemn undercurrent of anxiety about losing “the one you love”, though this is usually hidden behind much lightheartedness.
Gina Patterson’s “Quietly Walking” is an arresting, cinematic vision from start to finish. While its themes are weighty topics like isolation in the modern world, separation from nature, and separation from fellow human beings, the imagery and emotions it evokes are tastefully understated. What overwhelms and captivates are the striking pairing of Max Richter’s haunting instrumental music and Patterson’s polyphonic choreography. Appropriately dark, meditative lighting enhances the atmosphere. Atlanta Ballet’s dancers were easily up to the challenges of each of the program’s pieces, but they particularly excelled in this work. It generated an almost immediate standing ovation.
Ohad Naharin’s “Minus 16” begins with the house lights up as the audience wanders in from intermission to discover a man in a suit alone onstage “dancing like no one is watching”. He shows off his best moves, and inspires applause from the crowd, all while remaining absorbed in his own world. Eventually, the lights dim and he is joined by a corps of similarly-attired dancers who likewise enjoy exuberant, unhindered movement; and a party-like atmosphere prevails. Techno music, audience participation dances, and a spoof of a classical ballet class add to the fun. And though this work is interspersed with serious moments, the majority of it might be summed up with the wise Edwin Denby quote: “there is a bit of insanity in dancing that does everybody a great deal of good.”
Atlanta Ballet performed Modern Choreographic Voices through April 19th.
Disclosure: Atlanta Ballet Dancer Alessa Rogers is a contributing writer at 4dancers.