Atlanta Ballet's 'Firebird' Shows Company's New Vision | WABE 90.1 FM

Atlanta Ballet's 'Firebird' Shows Company's New Vision

Apr 13, 2017

Atlanta Ballet will stage "Firebird" April 14-16. It's the first performance since the announcement that half the company's dancers are leaving.

This is the first season with Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin. He has a new vision for the company, and, in "Firebird," it shows.

“I want to bring different styles of ballet to the city, to the company that would attract the largest audience possible,” he said.

Right now the company leans toward contemporary dance techniques. Nedvigin wants more variety.

He said "Firebird" features the fusion of styles he likes. He wants new dancers willing and able to perform like that for a whole season, even though it's hard on their bodies.

“When I was a dancer, I don't remember a day when I wasn't hurting, really," he said. "Yes, I do need dancers willing to put themselves out there and explore the possibilities of dancing in different styles.”

Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin instructs dancers during a rehearsal. Now-retired dancer John Welker (at bar) is the founder of Wabi-Sabi.
Credit Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

Atlanta Ballet didn't renew the contracts of eight dancers. Another five quit.

The ballet also eliminated its innovative summer troupe, called Wabi-Sabi. John Welker, its founder, retired just before the staff shakeup but says he gets why some dancers are upset enough to quit.

“It's not a change in whether it's classical or contemporary dance," he said. "I think what you're seeing is the change in the workplace culture.”

Welker said Atlanta Ballet used to be more collaborative. That empowered him to create Wabi-Sabi. Now, he said, the organization is more top-down. He argued that's not necessarily a bad thing. In fact, it's typical in the industry.

But, Welker said, the new approach angered veterans. Now, Atlanta Ballet could struggle while it finds and trains half a company of new dancers, he said.

"City Lights" host Lois Reitzes spoke with Beatrice Affron, who will conduct "Firebird" with the Atlanta Ballet this weekend, about the music. You can hear that interview below.

Note: Atlanta Ballet is a WABE underwriter.