The Dance Movement

Atlanta’s migrating dance ensembles have an underlying connection

Atlanta dance is having a moment. Performers are suddenly undulating through parks, cemeteries, churches, and art museums—even stopping traffic at Midtown intersections. Funded by a hodgepodge of grants, commissions, donations, and income, Atlanta’s dance scene is as intertwined as a game of Twister, with players moving back and forth between companies—not to mention thriving programs at Emory, Kennesaw State, and Spelman. Here’s how some connect. 

Beacon Dance
When started 1953, as the Decatur Civic Ballet/ By whom Artistic director D. Patton White has been the driving force since 1990 Where they perform Atlanta BeltLine, Baker Woodlands at Emory, West End’s B Complex, Decatur Cemetery What’s unique Site-specific work, often about social issues Biggest hit In 2011 White performed part of his The Elemental Project series at Emory. Where to see them next At the Museum of Contemporary Art of Georgia, July to October Key players and connections White collaborates with Core. Dancer Onur Topal Sumer works with Full Radius Dance (, which includes disabled dancers; Juana Farfan works with Moving in the Spirit (

Core Performance Company
When started 1980/ By whom Sue Schroeder Where they perform Decatur High School Performing Arts Center, the High Museum of Art, Callanwolde Fine Arts Center What’s unique Has a second studio in Houston; delves into social issues Biggest hit 2011’s The Point and The Moment Between to celebrate its twenty-fifth anniversary Where to see them next Decatur High School, September 15 to 16, including choreography by Emory’s Lori Teague Key players and connections Member Blake Dalton’s own company, Crossover Movement Arts (, has collaborated with Dance Truck; Alisa Mittin and Corian Ellisor work with Dance Truck and the Lucky Penny.

The Lucky Penny
When started
2011 By whom Blake Beckham and Malina Rodriguez Where they perform The Arts Exchange in Reynoldstown and Georgia Tech What’s unique Risky, experimental work Biggest hit Spectacular! Spectacular!, which melded film, dance, and even a tea last November at the Arts Exchange Where to see them next Threshold, a collaboration with Atlanta architects Mack Scogin and Merrill Elam, August 16 to 19 at Georgia Tech Key players and connections Beckham has performed with Decatur’s Gardenhouse ( and Dance Truck. Dancer Alisa Mittin performs with Core.

Dance Truck
When started
2009/ By whom Malina Rodriguez, Danny Davis, and Vii Kelly Where they perform Atlanta Contemporary Art Center, the Goat Farm Arts Center, the Museum of Design Atlanta, the High Museum of Art, and the Decatur Arts Festival What’s unique Performs in rental trucks and on pickup flatbeds Biggest hit A meditation on life and death at the Goat Farm Where to see them next The group is looking for funding and a venue to put on its dream production, Dance Truck: Double Wide, which will include two trucks and six choreographers. Key players and connections Choreographers and dancers include the Lucky Penny’s Blake Beckham; Corian Ellisor and Alisa Mittin of Core; and Onur Topal Sumer, a member of Beacon Dance and Full Radius.

The Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi
When started
2011 By whom Company member John Welker directs this new chamber performance group within the Atlanta Ballet, dedicated to providing a platform for young choreographers and new works. Wabi sabi is a Japanese term for the beauty in imperfection and transience. Where they perform The Michael C. Carlos Dance Centre, the Atlanta Botanical Garden What’s unique Has helped keep Atlanta’s old-school institution fresh. Biggest hit Yet to come Where to see them next Atlanta Botanical Garden, June 21 Key players and connections Welker is also a student-performer at KSU (

When started
2009/ By whom Founder Lauri Stallings came here as an artist-in-residence at the Atlanta Ballet, where her Big Boi collaboration Big generated national buzz. Where they perform Lenox Square, Woodruff Park, Little Five Points, Castleberry Hill What’s unique Site-specific engagements with the cityscape and collaborations with creatives like filmmaker Micah Stansell and conductor Robert Spano. Most programming is free. Biggest hit Performances during Castleberry Hill’s Flux event every October Where to see them next From June 1 to 3 in Pupil—in which dancers will interact virtually via Wi-Fi with remote audiences. From June 29 to July 23, Liquid Culture will be performed at four sites. Key players and connections In January, Stallings organized the Off the Edge contemporary dance event based at the Rialto, which mixed national and international companies with local groups. Stallings is an artist-in-residence at KSU.

Illustration by Chris Whetzel

Felicia Feaster is one of our editorial contributors.
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