By Beth Clark
If visiting the Atlanta Botanical Garden is on your list of things to do this summer, allow me to virtually beg you to go tonight, Thursday Aug. 22. The reason: the Atlanta Botanical Garden is never quite so enchanting as when the aesthetics of gorgeously cultivated flowers and plants are paired with the emotional power of beautiful dance.
The dancers are part of Wabi Sabi, a relatively new dance troupe that simultaneously gives emerging choreographers a platform upon which to create and present new works, and also infuses new creativity into the Atlanta Ballet’s repertoire. Started by company dancer John Welker, Wabi Sabi is opening its third season with performances of seven new works in various natural spaces in Atlanta. I was fortunate to see Wabi Sabi last week, when the dancers performed during “Cocktails in the Garden” at the Botanical Garden; the swooping, sweeping, feather-weight dance engendered in me an even deeper connection to the space than previous visits have done.
When you arrive tonight, you’ll be given a program that tells you the time and location of each of the seven performances. As you stroll through the Botanical Garden’s Imaginary Worlds exhibit (it is fantastic), expect to stumble upon dance performances blossoming (see what I did there?) at the Rose Garden, the Aquatic Plant Pond, the Great Lawn and more. I found the choreography to be whimsical at times and achingly beautiful at others, each piece set to musical scores ranging from Beethoven to Jay Electronica to Frédéric Chopin.
I would like to give a standing ovation to the choreographers, whose mastery of the human body showed me muscles I didn’t know existed and synced up not only the dancers' bodies but their energies as well. I met Michael Smith right before watching the piece he choreographed for five dancers (entitled “Intra Lobus Temporalis,” performed on the Great Lawn) and marveled at the way his choreography dominated the vast space, all under a blanket of open sky.
Now that I think about it, I wonder if there is truly something magical about seeing dance in a botanical garden. All of those plants – cleaning the air, giving off the energy of aliveness (if that makes any sense) and calming your senses with the freshness of early evening – definitely help you relax after a long day at work. The name “wabi sabi” comes from a Japanese worldview that finds beauty in the sincerity, simplicity and integrity of the natural world. Bravo, Wabi Sabi dance troupe, for bringing that ethos to life.
Photos by Bonnie Moret
Beth Clark is a writer, dancer and humorist who dearly loves Atlanta. She loves nothing better than roaming around the city on a mission to discover Atlanta's quirky, glam, upscale and down-home character. Check out her blog, TheCityDweller.me or Twitter@bethcitydweller.