On April 14, 2017 at 8pm I made my way to the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre to watch the Atlanta Ballet perform Firebird. I arrive to the theatre 45 minutes early, which was to my advantage because I was able to go to a pre-talk in the theatre before the show. The talk was hosted by the general manager of Atlanta Ballet, Bradley Renner, and assistant to the choreographer for Petite Mort, Elke Schepers. Schepers revealed that the process of developing Petite Mort with Jiri Kylian was difficult and slow. She told us that it was hard to move forward because she was too much in her head and Kylian had to break her out of her shell so she could be a free dancer. She told the pre-show crowd that each dancers has to bring something personal to the piece but remain in the original frame of the work. Schepers answered a question from the audience telling us that there is no narrative or plotline to look for. Petite Mort is an abstract and sensual piece about connecting and disconnecting. The most difficult part for the dancers is dancing with the fencing foils and working with the dress props.
A lot of audience members were confused and thought that they were only coming to see Firebird, as did I. The first piece danced was Allegro Brillante choreographed by George Balanchine. There were ten dancers total in this piece. It was refreshing to see such a diverse cast on stage; my eye was drawn to the black ballerina. I also noticed different body shapes; some of the girls were bustier than your typical ballerina body. This piece was cute and predictable. None of the formations were revolution or different from the typical two staggered lines, a circle and diagonals. This piece followed all the rules of ballet probably because the man who set the rules for ballet choreographed it. I felt like the dancers were in a forest and garden based off of their costumes.
The second piece was Petite Mort choreographed by Jiri Kylian. This dance was a delightful and much appreciated contrast to the first piece. The last time I saw this piece performed was on Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre. The question that I kept on ask myself throughout this piece is what makes it a contemporary ballet piece instead of just a contemporary piece. They are not wearing ballet shoes and their lines are perfect like in the first piece. Perhaps it is because it was choreographed by a ballet choreographer on a ballet company. There were a lot of turned in and turned out positions as well as connecting and disconnecting. It took me a moment to see where the support was happening it almost seemed like a magic balancing act. There was suspension in this piece, a lot of floating of men, women and limbs in mid air.
Firebird was the last piece of the program as it was the headlining program for the evening. Everything about this production was spectacle and over the top from the costumes, to the props, to the set. The story was cute. I didn’t really agree with the storyline all that much, I don’t understand why the prince didn’t choose the Firebird after she saved his life or why the Firebird even fell in love with him after he captured her. The three moments that stood out to me had nothing to do with the dancing. The first thing was the orange wig that Firebird was wearing. The second moment was when the Sorcerer popped out of the fog to capture the Prince and the third moment was when the Prince cracked the Sorcerer’s egg open and it was a flashing bright light. Those moments really woke me up from the stagnancy of the piece.