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Atlanta ballet bounds into Sautee
Dance troupe to perform modern piece Wabi Sabi
Brandon Nguyen of the Atlanta Ballet Co. is scheduled to perform as part of the “Wabi Sabi” production at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the historic gym in Sautee Nacoochee.

Atlanta Ballet Co.’s ‘Wabi Sabi’

What: Unique, modern ballet performance focusing on elements of nature

When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Aug. 2

Where: Historic Gym, Sautee Nacoochee Center, 283 Ga. 255, Sautee Nacoochee

How much: $20 for members, $24 for nonmembers, $5 for 16 years old and younger


For the third time, the Atlanta Ballet Co. is bringing the big-city ballet to the small towns of North Georgia with a unique performance.

The Wabi Sabi troupe will perform at 7:30 p.m. Saturday in the Sautee Nacoochee Center’s Historic Gym, at 283 Ga. 255 in Sautee Nacoochee. Tickets are $20 for Sautee Nacoochee Center members, $24 for nonmembers, and $5 for those 16 years old and younger.

“Wabi Sabi” is a Japanese phrase that focuses on the beauty of nature and its simplicity, grace and ever-changing qualities. For the troupe and ballet master John Welker, this means taking the art of ballet to new environments and embracing the characteristics of the outdoors.

“The environment of mountains and rivers is so beautiful, which suits our mission of using elements of the natural world,” Welker said. “Also, the local community has a strong tradition of nurturing art and creativity, which makes the audience receptive to new ideas. We feel at home there.”

For audiences of the company, Wabi Sabi will be a one-of-a-kind experience since Welker and choreographer Ivan Pulinkala are developing the program just for the Historic Gym’s environment.

“The biggest thing that attracted John Welker is that we have this huge old historic gym, and when he walked inside, he was just like ‘we want to perform here,’” said Dede Vogt, performing arts program director at the Sautee Nacoochee Center.

The group usually performs in outdoor settings, such as the Atlanta Botanical Gardens, since the goal is to merge classic ballet with a more modern setting and music. But no matter where it performs, the troupe always provides a different exhibition to surround audiences and provide a new perspective on the art of ballet.

“The audience will have people in front of them and behind them,” Vogt said. “You are very much a part of the performance because you are very close to the dancers, so you get to see their athleticism. Even if you liked just classical ballet, you would still love this.”

Vogt described the company as very “outside the box,” and emphasized the performance is ideal for all ages and demographics.

“The dancers are comfortable in different and natural settings, and it works because our audience is extremely diverse. You could be 10 years old or 90 years old and still see the beauty in the performance,” she said. “The thing that keeps bringing Atlanta Ballet back is that people from these counties (who) may never have seen a ballet will be more likely to come to a place in their backyard to see what it’s all about.”

At the same time, the Wabi Sabi troupe enjoys leaving the city to bring the art to new places.

“The peace and quiet of Sautee offers us a respite from the hectic schedules and frenzy of life in Atlanta, so our time there works as a restorative,” Welker said. “It energizes us at the same time and helps us broaden the scope of what we do.”

For those unable to make it to the evening performance, the troupe is offering a general admission behind-the-scenes look at the performance during Friday’s 4 p.m. rehearsal for a reduced fee of $5.

For tickets or information, visit or call 706-878-3300.

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