Dance - Dance 'MAYhem' at the Atlanta Ballet

Company invites three choreographers to present their works on the Cobb Energy Center stage

It's not The Nutcracker. Chances are when one hears the name of Atlanta Ballet's classic production, it conjures up thoughts of squirming uncomfortably in your seat while starchy swans or children running from giant mice skitter across the stage. Audiences in that boat will be pleasantly surprised by the modern program of Atlanta Ballet's MAYhem production.

The performance will contain three works by different choreographers, demonstrating the range of styles incorporated into what is known as contemporary ballet. The energetic company really shines in new works, and you can always tell when dancers are especially excited to strut in roles that are wholly their own.

It may be the country's oldest regional ballet company, but the dancers at Atlanta Ballet have a vibrant, youthful energy. You won't find the egos or soap opera antics of reality television's "Breaking Pointe" or the film Center Stage in this hard-working company. One strategy that sets the company apart is that there is no prima ballerina, no official star structure. Each member of the company has equal status, and when roles are being created, it's up to the choreographer to choose which dancers he or she wishes to feature.

The MAYhem program includes "Cacti" by Alexander Ekman, "Classical Symphony" by Yuri Possokhov, and "Angels' Share" by John Heginbotham. Coming from Sweden, Russia, and Alaska, respectively, the choreographers' different perspectives and sensibilities will be demonstrated in their works. Ekman is known for his sly humor, whereas Possokhov's work is a bombastic celebration of the power of classical ballet. Heginbotham's piece, previously seen last year performed by Atlanta Ballet's Wabi Sabi group, is a quieter, unearthly work, performed for the first time at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre.

There is an incentive to arrive early to the performances, too, as 30 minutes before the shows there will be a bonus performance in the lobby from students at the Atlanta Ballet Centre for Dance Education. So don't be surprised if the skinny urchin standing to your left suddenly starts to bust a move — it's all part of the show.

Another special event tied to the MAYhem show is a talkback with Ekman and Heginbotham directly after the Friday performance. It's a rare opportunity to get to ask questions of the choreographers with their pieces fresh in your mind, at no additional cost. Whether you are a newbie or a full-fledged balletomane, it's sure to be an interesting conversation and you're likely to gain more insight into the pieces you have just seen.

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