Ballet That Speaks
Mara rehearsing Camino Real with Christian Clark. Photo by Charlie McCullers, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet.
This weekend, Atlanta Ballet presents the world premiere of Helen Pickett’s Camino Real. Inspired by the Tennessee Williams play of the same name, it tells the story of an unlikely cast of characters trapped in a dusty, dead end town. Not only is it Pickett’s first full-length ballet, but the five main characters also have speaking roles. For Pointe‘s bi-weekly newsletter, we spoke with Atlanta Ballet dancer Nadia Mara before opening night.
You’re playing Marguerite, who is based off the character in The Lady of the Camellias. What is she like?
She’s a very elegant, effortless and delicate character. But at the same time, she goes through so many emotions, like anger, desperation, betrayal. That’s when her movement starts getting a little more aggressive. At one point I even dance barefoot.
How would you describe the choreography?
It’s very sensual and emotional. Helen Pickett does a really good job connecting the emotional state of the character to the movement. She’ll say, “In this part, you feel anxiety,” and does a movement. But she also gives me the freedom of creating. For a dancer, the best thing you can do is create with a choreographer and make a role your own.
What’s it like working with Pickett?
She challenges me, and that’s what I love about her. She knows she can give me anything, like speaking onstage, and I’ll try to make it work. Of course, I’m from Uruguay, I have an accent and my English is not perfect. But she trusts me.
How is the speaking woven into the choreography?
It’s pretty amazing–they happen together. I’m in the middle of a solo, and I have to scream and say things and express my feelings through movement. We have a lot of rehearsals where we ask, “Where exactly are we going to breathe?” I have a jumping solo and a microphone, so I can’t inhale loudly before I’m going to say something. Everything is about timing.
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