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THE ATLANTA BALLET.

THE ATLANTA BALLET ROBERT FERST CENTER FOR THE ARTS ATLANTA, GEORGIA MARCH 23-26, 2000

The four years spent on the waiting list for the world premiere of 30-year-old Australian choreographer Stanton Welch's A Dance in the Garden of Mirth proved a worthwhile investment for the Atlanta Ballet. Obviously inspired by traditional Irish dance, Welch eschewed the half-time drill quality of Riverdance-styled works to create a piece stately in its execution but passionately seductive in appeal.

Although this was Welch's first collaboration with Atlanta Ballet, the piece came off with stunning conviction. To music by the Dufay Collective, the work's motifs recalled early Irish dances, such as the Haie (hay), in French a word denoting stakes in a fence and used to describe a line of soldiers or dancers. The footwork was precise, with simple movements like the tendu or pique assuming significance when performed briskly and in conjunction with exquisite partnering, dramatic level changes, and seamless transitions. In the duet portion of the work, Jim Stein lifted Christine Winkler skyward from a prone position in a breathtakingly beautiful and somehow erotic elevation. The controlled passion of the twenty-five-minute work simmered just beneath the surface. Contractions in the upper torso, coupled with a tidal, rise-and-fall musicality, lent the dancers a sinuous and commanding presence.

A Dance in the Garden of Mirth was a 180-degree turnaround from the evening's opening children's story, Pinocchio's Adventures (1996) by choreographer David Sutherland. Originally premiered at the Playhouse of the Staatstheater, Cottbus, Germany, the work enjoyed its North American premiere in the Atlanta Ballet's production.

Based on Italian author Carlo Collodi's 1886 version of the story of Pinocchio, the wooden puppet who became a living boy, the production was staged as an interactive opportunity. Entering and exiting through the audience, the performers effectively eliminated traditional barriers of the proscenium stage.

The foolhardy Pinocchio, as danced by Brian Wallenberg, proved as buoyant and resilient as wood and as gangly, energetic and bashful as any growing boy. Wallenberg's jumping and leaping demonstrated ballon and enthusiasm in the execution of the role. In this make-believe world, the lessons remained the timeless ones: Strangers are not to be trusted, and never, never lie--that is, unless you want a very long nose.
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Article Details
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Title Annotation:Review
Author:MCLENDON, SHERRI L.
Publication:Dance Magazine
Article Type:Dance Review
Date:Jul 1, 2000
Words:371
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