Atlanta Ballet’s Wabi Sabi finds beauty in the natural world

The company-within-a-company embraces surprises and flaws
Photograph by Jonah Hooper
Photograph by Jonah Hooper

Traditional ballet is rooted in artifice—elaborate costumes, stylized scenery, and formalized movement. Wabi Sabi, Atlanta Ballet’s company-within-a-company, creates innovative performances inspired by the natural world, with all its surprises and flaws. Started by dancer John Welker four years ago, the series—in which young choreographers create original pieces performed in unorthodox settings—takes its name from a Japanese Buddhist term for finding beauty in nature. “Those things that make you special are actually imperfections,” says Welker, a twenty-year veteran of the Ballet. “I thought something that embraced the uniqueness of ourselves was quite wonderful.”

A performance in the Atlanta Botanical Garden wraps up the 2014 series, which has included live music, a longer season, and, for the first time, shows performed on the road in venues such as the historic gym in Sautee Nacoochee, Georgia, and the Lancaster Festival in Ohio.

Wabi Sabi, September 18, Atlanta Botanical Garden,

This article originally appeared in out September 2014 issue under the headline “Naturally Perfect.”