Monday, April 14, 2008

Atlanta Ballet Plays Footsie With Hip-Hop

“Big,” the Atlanta Ballet’s new production, features a live performance of the music of Antwan Patton, better known as Big Boi of the famed hip-hop duo OutKast. Clearly the aim is to expand the ballet company’s audience. But it’s far more likely that “big,” which opened on Thursday night at the Fabulous Fox Theater here, will bring ballet audiences to hip-hop. (I, for one, am going to download as many songs by OutKast as possible.)

And that, from a dance point of view, gets to the heart of the problem with the rambunctious, rambling, hugely enjoyable concert that is “big.” As the title indicates, it’s all about Mr. Patton: his inventive, unpredictable music; his smart lyrics; his persona; his stable of artists. And as hard as Lauri Stallings, the ballet company’s resident choreographer, has tried to match his starry presence with a veritable onslaught of kinetic, charged dancing, it’s an unequal alliance. At best, “big” has moments of fascinating intersection between the movement and the firecracker verbal delivery of Mr. Patton’s work. At worst, the dancers simply look like a rather sophisticated back-up troupe.

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