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Atlanta Ballet to undergo massive shakeup

Atlanta Ballet in Classical Symphony in 2015. Photo by Kim Kenney
Atlanta Ballet in Classical Symphony in 2015. Photo by Kim Kenney.

News reports emerged on April 6 that Atlanta Ballet, a strong regional troupe known as the longest continuously performing ballet company in the United States, will undergo a major shakeup at the end of its current 2016-2017 Season. First ArtsATL and then other news outlets and stations like WABE 90.1 FM announced that the organization would see half the company either leave or be let go after its May performances.

The dancers set to wave goodbye of their own volition are beloved favorites and company veterans Tara Lee (21st season), Christian Clark (15th season), Rachel Van Buskirk (10th season) and Alessa Rogers (9th season.) Another eight dancers are being let go, totaling 13 dancers or almost 50 percent of the company. In comparison to Pennsylvania Ballet, which experienced a similar shakeup at the end of last season, Atlanta Ballet’s impending changes are even more daunting and dramatic.

Atlanta Ballet. Romeo et Juliet

Alessa Rogers and Christian Clark in Atlanta Ballet’s production of Jean-Christophe Maillot’s ‘Romeo et Juliette.’ Photo by Charlie McCullers.

The massive shift is being linked to the arrival of new Artistic Director Gennadi Nedvigin, who took the reigns of the troupe beginning this season after longtime Artistic Director John McFall departed.

ArtsATL interviewed many dancers anonymously to get a glimpse behind the curtain. One veteran dancer, who requested to not be identified, stated, “We don’t stand behind the mission anymore, or find it relevant to Atlanta. We were all drawn to the company’s versatility and family feeling. Atlanta Ballet had its own identity; we were versatile enough to go from contemporary to classical. This turn to pure classical is not what we were told would happen. I’ve been in the company for a long time, and it’s definitely not the place for me anymore.”

For a city so diverse, it’s especially disheartening to hear that the company’s only African-American female dancer Kiara Felder will depart the company. She has plans to join Les Grands Ballet Canadiens in Montreal.

Tara Lee of Atlanta Ballet. Photo by Kim Kenney.

Tara Lee of Atlanta Ballet in ‘Camino Real’ in 2015. Photo by Kim Kenney.

Well-known dancer Heath Gill, in his seventh year with Atlanta Ballet, was also not offered a position for next season.

To learn even more, read the extensive ArtsATL article here. Next weekend, on April 14-16, Atlanta Ballet presents a mixed program featuring Yuri Possokhov’s Firebird, George Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante and Jiří Kylián’s Petite Mort. Concluding the season, the company will present the revival of Helen Pickett’s Camino Real on May 12-14.

These shows are Atlanta’s final opportunity to see some of their favorite Atlanta Ballet company members perform. To book tickets visit www.atlantaballet.com.

Read Dance Informa’s recent review of the company’s triple bill Gennadi’s Choice here.

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