The Atlanta Ballet closes out their regular season this weekend with MAYhem, a collection of three different examples of boundary-defying contemporary dance that includes the world premieres of “THREE” by Atlanta Ballet Artistic Director John McFall and “The Exiled” by Atlanta Ballet Choreographer in Residence Helen Pickett, along with the return of “1st Flash” by Jorma Elo.
Among the dancers performing in MAYhem is 25 year old Brandon Nguyen, who is completing his third year with the Atlanta Ballet. The openly gay Texas native joined the Atlanta Ballet after stints with the Orlando Ballet and Cirque du Soleil. In addition to his work with the Atlanta Ballet, Brandon is also involved with the Atlanta Ballet’s summer troupe, Wabi Sabi. Before the premiere of MAYhem, we spoke with Brandon about what makes both the Atlanta Ballet and Wabi Sabi unique organizations.
David Atlanta: For a lot of people who maybe aren’t overly familiar with the Atlanta Ballet, they may have certain preconceptions about what it entails – very formal work, tutus, that sort of thing. What would you say to them to explain the Atlanta Ballet?
Brandon Nguyen: When you come to the Atlanta Ballet, you’re not just going to see girls in tutus standing in a perfect line, not moving but looking beautiful standing there. You’re going to see a lot of movement. You’re going to get a lot of diversity with the classical ballet and the contemporary. Companies don’t do that, because it’s so different. It’s almost dangerous.
DA: Do most companies tend to just go one way or the other?
BN: Yeah, it’s usually very smooth. Like this repertoire that we’re doing, the differences aren’t so extreme. But when you’re doing something so classical, you can see the difference in the sides. You’re going to get a taste of a lot of things. You’re going to get to see world-class choreographers from all around the world creating on the Atlanta Ballet stage. And you’re going to see with the Atlanta Ballet, we’re all unique in our own ways. It’s like we’re each our own color, and it’s all such great colors. Everyone has something very special to offer, whether it be technical strength, musicality, artistry – everyone has something very unique and special to offer here. And we’re not a hierarchy company. We’re a troupe. We really feel like a team. In some companies, they have ranks, so if you’re in the Court of Ballet, that’s your group. If you’re a principal, you’re around principals all day. Here, we’re around each other all day, and we’re so supportive of each other that it comes across on stage. I can’t think of one person who’s come to Atlanta Ballet and hasn’t enjoyed it. It’s a breath of fresh air. They don’t want to leave; they fall in love with us.
DA: How did you get involved with Wabi Sabi? What makes it different from your work with the Ballet?
BN: I’ve been involved with them the last two years, and it’s nice. In three years, it’s evolved. Wabi Sabi is a great way to get a chance to work with up-and-coming choreographers around the United States. They send their information in, and John Welker, who is the director of Wabi Sabi, goes through it all. It’s a good way to get to work with fresh talent, and it’s nice to still be moving around in the summer when we’re off. It’s lightweight, because you’re not working six or nine hours a day like you normally would. It’s lighter. You go into it with a fresh mindset, because it’s fun and new. It’s a nice process.
Join David Atlanta and the Atlanta Ballet for a special Night Out this Friday, May 16. The night starts at Cinco Mexican Cantina (2851 Akers Mill Rd) at 6:30 p.m., before the show begins at the Cobb Energy Centre at 8 p.m. Visit tickets.atlantaballet.com and enter the promo code “DAVID” for a special ticket and cocktail offer.