Dd Response: Atlanta Ballet Performs David Bintley's Carmina Burana

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The Cobb Energy Center auditorium was packed on Friday, April 12th, as Atlanta dance-lovers came out to see Atlanta Ballet in David Bintley’s, Carmina Burana.

Rachel Van Buskirk and Jonah Hooper in Carmina Burana: Photo credit to Charlie McCullers

To begin the performance, the company performed Petal, a brief work by resident choreographer, Helen Pickett.  The ballet was followed by a short intermission, during which the auditorium lights dimmed and vocalists from Georgia State University filled the rafters on either side of the stage, framing the audience.  Then Carl Orff’s magnificent music reverberated throughout the performance space.

There is an undeniable power in Orff’s score, which was reflected in the precision and intricacy of the movements of the single dancer onstage.  Adorned in a slinky black dress, blindfold, and flashy red heels, Rachel Van Buskirk embodied Bintley’s choreography with vigor and grace.  The juxtaposition of a single dancer’s movements with the ominous voices of numerous vocalists was unexpectedly powerful.

Carmina Burana was Bintley’s adaptation of a collection of texts from the 11th and 12th century.  These texts, some of them written in Latin and some in German, were moral and satirical in nature.  The story behind the texts was that of three seminarians, who stray from their faith in search of various pleasures of the flesh.

Rachel Van Buskirk in Carmina Burana: Photo by Charlie McCullers

The first seminarian fell for a “lover girl” and then was rejected.  The set and lighting reflected the inside of a dance club.  Heath Gill, who danced the role of the first seminarian embodied playfulness and a longing for more from his lover girl.  The second seminarian, flawlessly danced by Jesse Tyler, was driven by torment and yearning and aligned himself with a group of fat balding men, lusting after a roast swan (a female dressed as showgirl).  Tara Lee danced with innocence and without effort as she did her best to escape the gluttony of the men.  The third seminarian, danced by Jonah Hooper, surrendered whole-heartedly to beautiful Fortuna (Van Buskirk), the same goddess of destiny who opened the show to Orff’s score. Hooper’s performance possessed an honest vulnerability and humility that was captivating to watch. Van Buskirk portrayed the grace and strength of woman effortlessly.

Bintley’s Carmina embodied more satire than drama, and the  dancers committed fully to its vision.  The set, score, and costumes all reflected Bintley’s modern take on the chosen texts.  Yet the true genius of Bintley’s Carmina was reflected in the ballet’s physical exposure of the human condition.

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