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Wabi Sabi to dance through artful light at Atlanta Botanical Garden

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Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet's contemporary dance ensemble, performs at the High Museum of Art and Serenbe this weekend and at its Westside studios next weekend. CONTRIBUTED BY BONNIE MORET
Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet's contemporary dance ensemble, opens its summer season on Thursday at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. CONTRIBUTED BY BONNIE MORET

Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet’s contemporary dance ensemble, opens its summer season on Thursday at the Atlanta Botanical Garden. CONTRIBUTED BY BONNIE MORET

Wabi Sabi’s summertime appearances at the Atlanta Botanical Garden always are something of a movable feast in which audience members meander en masse around the 30-acre Midtown attraction to catch the next piece on the program.

Not only do they get to see new work from rising choreographers performed by Atlanta Ballet’s contemporary dance offshoot, their perambulation allows them to appreciate the garden in a whole new way.

Yet even by Wabi Sabi’s now-for-something-completely-different standards, Thursday’s summer season-launching performance there promises a unique experience.

That’s because Atlanta Botanical Garden currently is hosting an exhibit of six site-specific light installations by British artist Bruce Munro, “Light in the Garden.” And two of the four works on the debut program of Wabi Sabi’s fifth season will unfurl amid Munro’s most intense and magical installation, “Forest of Light,” which sets 31,000 flowerlike stems topped by frosted bulbs amid the garden’s recently expanded Storza Woods.

Wabi Sabi ballet master John Welker said that when he first visited the forest recently, he admired the landscape architecture of the newly opened Woodland Ramble, which takes visitors through a sequence of themed garden “rooms” amid the hardwood-filled woods.

But that was before night fell, and Munro’s lights began twinkling. When he and the choreographers for Thursday night’s program, titled “Trip the Light Fantastic,” returned after dusk, they were stunned.

“It was magical, oh my goodness,” Welker said. “It was sort of like you were transported into some sort of fairy tale, really. It was (as if) the stars were transplanted to the forest floor itself.”

Welker hopes to add to that magic by staging “Between” by Atlanta Ballet ballet mistress Sarah Hillmer and “Ganesa” by guest choreographer Meaghan Muller there.

Audiences will follow “Between’s” dancers as they move through the lighted woods. The work will pause at the Glade Garden’s reflecting pool, where Muller’s circus-inspired work, showcasing the former Cirque du Soleil aerialist on a flying trapeze rig, will be performed. After “Ganesa” ends, there’s a coda of sorts for “Between.”

“So Meaghan’s piece is kind of embedded inside Sarah’s,” Welker explained, sounding himself surprised at the shape the evening is taking. “Sarah just thinks of these things.”

Bookending the two dances in Storza Woods are two others by Atlanta Ballet dancers that will be performed on the Great Lawn, Heath Gill’s “Idyll” and Tara Lee’s “Swimmer.”

DANCE PREVIEW

Wabi Sabi: “Trip the Light Fantastic”

8 p.m. Thursday. Garden open 6 to 11 p.m. for the special exhibit “Bruce Munro: Light in the Garden.” Free with “Light in the Garden” admission: $19.95, $13.95 ages 3-12. 1345 Piedmont Ave. N.E., Atlanta. 404-876-5859, atlantabg.org.

OTHER WABI SABI PERFORMANCES

  • 7 p.m. Aug. 21: “Whim” amid the High Museum of Art’s outdoor “Los Trompos” installation. Free. 1280 Peachtree St. N.E., Atlanta.
  • 5 p.m. Aug. 23: “Whim” at Serenbe Open Air Function Room. $30. 10950 Hutcheson Ferry Road, Chattahoochee Hills.
  • 5:30 p.m. Aug. 29: Atlanta Ballet Block Party at Atlanta Ballet’s Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre. Free (suggested donation of $20 will support the Dancers’ Resource Fund). 1695 Marietta Blvd. N.W., Atlanta.

Information: www.atlantaballet.com/wabisabi


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