First Glance Atlanta Festial

October 18, 2002

CORE Performance Company danced
Aria for an Endangered Species at First Glance Atlanta.

Keiko Guest

First Glance Atlanta Festival

New Theater and Dance
multiple venues

Atlanta, Georgia

Oct. 18-Nov. 3, 2002 Reviewed by Sherri L. McLendon

At first glance, Atlanta’s brand-new First Glance Festival seemed like a good idea. After all, a premier citywide festival celebrating performances of new work by established and emerging companies is an awesome achievement. And the festival’s goals, as publicly outlined by its organizers, were noble ones: to enhance the visibility of Atlanta’s performing artists, to elevate the quality of work being produced, to get money and funding resources to the artists, and to develop and expand new audiences for dance and theater.

When the three-week festival was over, the hectic schedule and smaller-than-average audience counts for most performances I attended forced me to wonder about the wisdom of having thirty-nine professional dance and theater groups compete for audience attendance. But the tradeoff�large-scale cooperative marketing and extensive corporate and foundation funding�may have been worth it.

Whatever the case, a glance at the new dance showcased during the festival’s three-week run provides a window on the state of dance in Atlanta. The Atlanta Ballet’s Ramblin’ Suite, choreographed by Diane Coburn Bruning with music performed live by the Red Clay Ramblers, a North Carolina-based string band with Appalachian flair, was a definite success, with movements both playful and striking. The work builds on Artistic Director/CEO John McFall’s growing reputation for attracting diverse audiences by combining live popular music with unique, unexpectedly contemporary new ballet. Ramblin’ Suite, presented with Septime Webre’s Carmen, gave audiences a look at both the classic and emergent facets of American ballet.

The most impressive contemporary modern dance work was without a doubt CORE Performance Company’s Aria for an Endangered Species, which opened the festival. With choreography by Ellen Bromberg and original score by Yoko Ono, the piece imagines the lives of members of a family frozen in time by an apocalyptic event. The work features a particularly striking performance by D. Patton White, who plays the father in the work.

Moving in the Spirit performance company, directed by Dana Phelps Marschalk, continued to advance its agenda of dance for everyone with the comic collection of company and student works called “ZipLock.” Room to Move Dance choreographer Amy Gately showed Anjou, a charming trio inspired by the shape and texture of pears, and House of Serenity. Martha Donovan, and independent choreographer and performer who often appears with Room to Move Dance, performed an emotive solo work, Soundless, which suggested the movement of water with its striking gestures and whirlpool motifs. Promising previews of works in progress included Mutation, choreographed by Margo Gathright-Dietrich, Ardath Prendergast, and Douglas Scott for Full Radius Dance.

Though it’s always a pleasure to watch art being made, there seems to be a trend about town: the showing of unfinished works, or the showing of second and third versions of ongoing works. Has there emerged in modern dance an alarming, if subtle, lack of distinction between process and product? It would appear to be the case, at least in Atlanta.