Written By | Bianca Theodore
In Atlanta Ballet 2’s recent show “Tu Tu & More,” the word “more” is a deceiving wink. Even the word ballet fails to encompass its rich artistry and wildly exhilarating nature.
However, the “more” is also fitting, as it is more of an experience than a simple recital.
Unlike most ballets, the two intermissions do not separate acts of the same show. Rather, all three acts (Tu Tu, blink, and Minus 16) are so diverse they may as well be entirely different performances. According to the program, each of these acts are designed to “display the range of human experience” from “strikingly different points of view.”
And striking it certainly is, to say the least.
The first installment, Tu Tu, acts as the traditional leg of the show. Backed by Maurice Ravel’s Piano Concerto in G Major, the ballerinas are a physical embodiment of its lush melody, moving fluidly to the delicate piano riffs and runs. The dancers themselves were a study in classic technique, equally controlled and poised during various jumps, turns, and elaborate footwork. Largely a partner effort, the couples moved in near perfect synchronicity and harmony, acting as bodily extensions of one another.
Then came blink, choreographer Tara Lee’s brand new piece that would be premiered that opening night. In a short cameo, Lee graced the Cobb Energy screen to explain that the piece was inspired by stars, and the energy they exchange. The seven dancers were arranged to mimic constellations, but Lee’s true choreographic intent was to mimic the energy humans exchange everyday. Punctuated by “curving lines, free torsos, and punches of the extremities”, the choreography crackled with the electricity of brief encounters and fleeting moments.
Last, but surely not least, was Minus 16. The act had an unsuspecting beginning, a lone dancer freestyling on an empty stage to an audience still milling around during intermission. The lights were on and the curtain was drawn, but what began as a supposed sideshow quickly captured everyone’s attention. Eventually, the lone dancer was joined by dozens of others, all clad in a drab gray suit with a black top hat. The music was jarring, a peculiar score that featured haunting chants, cha-cha, techno, and mambo. The choreography could best be described as random on purpose; a seemingly discordant mixture of everything from tango to freestyle.
But the highlight of the three acts was Minus 16’s end, which found the dancers in the crowd, holding out an innocuous hand to shocked audience members. To their surprise and our delight, they were bought on stage with no preamble or instructions; just left to tango with the best of them.
At its crescendo, a woman from the crowd stood under a spotlight in the middle of the stage, hands up in victory to the sound of the audience’s standing ovation.
That moment is the more in “Tu Tu & More”; the element of surprise, of thrill, and the reminder that the more is what makes life worth living.