News
Yuri Possokhov at work on his new Nutcracker for Atlanta Ballet. Photo by Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet

The Nutcracker is synonymous with American ballet. So when Gennadi Nedvigin took the helm at Atlanta Ballet in 2016, a new version of the holiday classic was one of his top priorities. This month, evidence of two years' worth of changes will appear when the company unwraps its latest version at Atlanta's Fox Theatre Dec. 8–24. Choreographed by Yuri Possokhov and produced on a larger-than-ever scale for Atlanta, the new ballet represents Nedvigin's big ambitions.

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What Dancers Eat
Ashley Wegmann at work in her kitchen. Photo courtesy Wegmann

For Ashley Wegmann, food is about fuel, but it is also about community. A few times a month, she joins a group of Atlanta Ballet dancers for a rotating party they call "Family Dinner."

"Someone hosts, and we all help prep and cook while snacking and drinking wine," says Wegmann. The group also hosts a big Thanksgiving dinner each year since the dancers are always busy rehearsing The Nutcracker, and most don't live close enough to family to travel home.

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Just for Fun
Royal Winnipeg Ballet revived Lila York's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale earlier this month. Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy RWB

When American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that it would be adding Jane Eyre to its stable of narrative full-lengths, the English nerds in the DM offices (read: most of us) got pretty excited. Cathy Marston's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel was created for England's Northern Ballet in 2016, and, based on the clips that have made their way online, it seems like a perfect fit for ABT's Met Opera season.

It also got us thinking about what other classic novels we'd love to see adapted into ballets—but then we realized just how many there already are. From Russian epics to beloved children's books, here are 10 of our favorites that have already made the leap from page to stage. (Special shoutout to Northern Ballet, the undisputed MVP of turning literature into live performance.)


Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Great Gatsby (F. Scott Fitzgerald)

Star-crossed lovers? Check. Wild party scenes? Check. The 1920s aesthetic is just bonus.

Dutch National Ballet in John Cranko's Onegin (Alexander Pushkin)

It's a novel in verse, but it still counts! Cranko's pas de deux work vividly paints the emotional turmoil of Pushkin's characters, such as this sequence in which Tatiana imagines being loved by the haughty Onegin.

The Royal Ballet in Liam Scarlett's Frankenstein (Mary Shelley)

It's spooky, it's sensational, it's a deep meditation on the nature of humanity—oh, and it's alive.

Northern Ballet in David Nixon's The Three Musketeers (Alexandre Dumas)

All for one and one for all! (And we're all in for this epic fight choreography the dancers took to a famous Abbey in their hometown of Leeds, England.)

Charlotte Ballet in Sasha Janes' Wuthering Heights (Emily Brontë)

The Brontë sisters had a knack for writing complex, tempestuous relationships—great fodder for pas de deux like this one.

The Washington Ballet in Septime Webre's Peter Pan (J. M. Barrie)

Sword-fighting, pirates, pixie dust and a ticking crocodile? This one simply flies off the page.

Hamburg Ballet in John Neumeier's Anna Karenina (Leo Tolstoy)

Some would argue that Tolstoy's epic is the greatest literature ever written, but you can't argue with the fact that the titular heroine is a deliciously complex character to tackle.

The Royal Ballet in Christopher Wheeldon's Alice's Adventures in Wonderland (Lewis Carroll)

Why is a raven like a writing desk? We still might not know the answer to Carroll's riddle, but we do know that Wheeldon's blockbuster production is so full of incredible moments (like Steven McRae stealing the show as a tap-dancing Mad Hatter) that we had trouble narrowing it down.

Atlanta Ballet in Michael Pink's Dracula (Bram Stoker)

There's a reason it seemed at one point like every ballet company in America had a production of Dracula in its repertoire.

Northern Ballet in Jonathan Watkins' 1984 (George Orwell)

Just in case the dystopian nightmare conjured by Orwell wasn't vivid enough in your own imagination.

Just for Fun
Royal Winnipeg Ballet revived Lila York's adaptation of Margaret Atwood's The Handmaid's Tale earlier this month. Photo by David Cooper, Courtesy RWB

When American Ballet Theatre announced yesterday that it would be adding Jane Eyre to its stable of narrative full-lengths, the English nerds in the DM offices (read: most of us) got pretty excited. Cathy Marston's adaptation of Charlotte Brontë's classic novel was created for England's Northern Ballet in 2016, and, based on the clips that have made their way online, it seems like a perfect fit for ABT's Met Opera season.

It also got us thinking about what other classic novels we'd love to see adapted into ballets—but then we realized just how many there already are. From Russian epics to beloved children's books, here are 10 of our favorites that have already made the leap from page to stage. (Special shoutout to Northern Ballet, the undisputed MVP of turning literature into live performance.)

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Dancers Trending
The founding members of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre. Photo by Joseph Guay, Courtesy Terminus.

This past spring, Atlanta gave birth to a brand-new dance company: Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre. Embracing a do-it-yourself spirit in a city fond of entrepreneurship, its five founding members created Terminus following last year's leadership change at their former home, Atlanta Ballet.

When John McFall announced that he would retire from Atlanta Ballet at the end of the 2015–16 season, after 21 years, a search for the next artistic director began. The search committee included prominent dancers Tara Lee, Christian Clark, Heath Gill and Rachel Van Buskirk. On the short list was John Welker, McFall's protégé and a veteran company member. Welker had founded and spent several years producing Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet's summer company, and the four dancers felt that he would be the ideal choice. When the board named Gennadi Nedvigin the new artistic director instead, Welker chose to retire and focus on finishing his degree at Kennesaw State University while the other four began to mull over a plan B. "We felt a drastic pivot in process and culture," says Welker. "We were also all at a point in our careers where we were recognizing time was short. So we asked ourselves, 'What do we want? How do we make this a positive thing?' "

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Dancers Trending
Bond (left) in the studio with fellow ABT member Cassandra Trenary. Photo by Jim Lafferty for Pointe.

Gemma Bond's intelligence—and knack for detail—never fails to shine through her dancing. It makes sense, then, that the American Ballet Theatre corps members is also a budding choreographer. After making works for ABT's Innovation Initiative and New York Theatre Ballet, as well as for her own pickup ensemble, her name is beginning to pop up with increasing frequency in ballet circles. She just made her first work for Atlanta Ballet, and was invited to take part in a festival at New York City's Joyce Theater. Next season she will create a work for The Washington Ballet. Her latest piece will be unveiled during a festival organized by fellow ABT dancer Isabella Boylston in Sun Valley, Idaho, August 22–24.

How did you get the Ballet Sun Valley commission?

Isabella has put together a wonderful program for the festival and wanted to do one new work. She has always come to see everything I've done; she's hugely supportive. She just said, "I want you to do this."

What is the idea behind the ballet?

There is this solar eclipse happening in Sun Valley on August 21, and we decided to use that as inspiration. There are two groups of dancers; Marcelo Gomes is the leader of one group and Isabella is the leader of the other. I call them the sun and moon. Judd Greenstein wrote the score. It's really about gravity and the tension and suspense that happens when everyone is there waiting for the eclipse to happen. It seems to take forever and then it happens and it's gone.

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Career Advice
Alessa Rogers as Juliette. Photo by Charlie McCullers

To The Dancer Who Hates Herself:

I see you. I know who you are. If you think you are hiding your self-loathing, you are deceiving only yourself. It is time to stop. Whatever baggage you are carrying around, whoever told you that you weren't worthy once upon a time or is still telling you that now—let those voices go.

You're not alone in this. On bad days when you look in the mirror and feel insecure and invisible and not enough, remember that other dancers have those days, too.

It's so easy to criticize one's self. Be braver than that. Be brave enough to love yourself. Tiny acts of forgiveness will add up to something beautiful and redemptive. If you don't know how to start, start the way you would start falling in love with anyone: slowly and patiently, with curiosity and infinite tenderness.

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Dancers Trending
Christian Clark and Tara Lee. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Scottish Ballet

At the start of the 2017–18 season, Atlanta Ballet will have a new look. According to an article on ArtsATL, many of the company's well-known faces won't be returning. Some departures can be attributed to the regular turnover all ballet companies experience at season's end: Dancers simply retire or sign a contract elsewhere.

Still, there's another major factor at play: recently instated artistic director Gennadi Nedvigin, who is continuing to shape the company. Whenever a new director takes the helm, roster shake-ups are to be expected. (Pennsylvania Ballet is still experiencing reverberations from Angel Corella's arrival. ) Nedvigin, the Bolshoi-trained former San Francisco Ballet principal, told Dance Magazine last year, "I want to broaden the repertoire by unifying the dancers in their technique." He also mentioned that he intends to add more classical and neoclassical ballet to Atlanta's repertoire, which in recent years has had more of a contemporary ballet lean.

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Dancers Trending

Gennadi Nedvigin in Balanchine's Coppélia, Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

San Francisco Ballet principal Gennadi Nedvigin is at a major crossroads in his career. Last week, he flew to Georgia to announce the 2016–17 season for Atlanta Ballet, where he'll take over as artistic director in August. But now, he's in the last week of rehearsals for SFB's Onegin. (He'll take his final bow on May 8.) Nedvigin shared his advice for dancers entering the field and how taking class inspires him.

How does it feel to close your chapter as a dancer?

Well, of course, it will probably be a little bit nostalgic. But, in a way, I don’t feel it yet because I’m still dancing and have so much work to do. It almost feels like it’s unstoppable. I guess we’re trying to put everything I have left in me into a number of performances.

How has your performing career, as well as your work teaching, coaching and staging ballets, prepared you for this next step?

I have all this knowledge that I gathered when I was ready and wanted to. Now I'm prepared to share it with a new generation. When I see the younger dancers struggling, I just want to help them to learn something that they don’t know yet and help them to advance quicker and stay healthy. It’s like the circle of life: You gain something, you give something.

Looking back, is there anything you wish you’d known when you were starting out?

Courtesy SFB

One thing that was hard was to be myself onstage. To get to that level mentally or to have this confidence in myself. It took me quite a while. The sooner you can believe in yourself or find support from your teachers or ballet masters or anybody that surrounds you, your director, it will help you to gain that confidence and bring yourself onstage. That’s what audiences enjoy, when they see a person dancing his heart out in front of you. That honest talk or discussion with the audience comes from the dancer himself. Not just, I learned a few steps and I did them onstage.

How can dancers stay inspired when they’re taking class day after day?

Sometimes you come in in the morning and you’re barely moving your limbs, and your joints are swollen or you had a big performance. But class makes me inspired. It’s not that I come to class inspired. The body starts doing things that it’s been doing pretty much all our lives. It’s like starting the engine, very slowly. You find something that brings you joy. You stretch. Your pain goes slightly away. I do feel better after class, honestly. Class is an approach for everything that we do. That makes it special, something positive.

When you teach company class at Atlanta Ballet, what will you focus on?

Many things. [laughs] I’ll definitely focus on the details of how movements are performed because those come with us into the studio, into the choreography, onstage.

Since you’ll be overseeing future auditions, what do you find most captivating in dancers?

I will be looking for a strong base in classical dance and, at the same time, the ability to free themselves into performing different styles. Not every dancer has that. It needs to be developed. Young dancers need to grow into something, and you grow by experiencing and dancing different repertoire. Obviously, I’m not expecting dancers who are 20 years old to be able to do that, but if I see the possibility in them, that’s what I will be looking for. The possibility to grow further.

Is there any other advice you have for dancers just starting out in their careers?

Try to discipline yourself and dedicate all your attention to what your teachers are able to share with you. I think that, on top of your dedication to the art, will help you succeed.

 

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