Atlanta Ballet choreographer explores new terrain; long-time ballerina takes last bow

Helen Pickett’s ‘The Exiled’ draws Atlanta Ballet closer to new identity


Credit: Brian O'Shea (AJC)

Credit: Brian O'Shea (AJC)

There is electricity in the air in one of Atlanta Ballet’s Westside studios as Helen Pickett, in her second year as choreographer in residence, rehearses “The Exiled” with a handful of dancers. The sparks are firing due to the fact that these artists are working with the choreographer to build a ballet unlike anything they’ve danced before.

Pickett, whose works are increasingly being presented by international companies, is choreographing her first narrative ballet. It’s a piece of significant dramatic heft and a departure from more lyrical works. And in another first, and perhaps most courageous, Pickett has developed a script — a necessary step, though not without risk.

Inspired by the Existentialist movement, “The Exiled” is one of two world premieres in an intriguing triple bill this weekend at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre. The program also features “Three,” an exploration of dreams by artistic director John McFall, and a reprise of Jorma Elo’s “First Flash.”

Read the full story on the AJC’s subscriber site,


Backstage with Atlanta Ballet duo whose real-life romance lit up shows


The curtain will come down on one of Atlanta’s greatest onstage love affairs on Saturday night.

Christine Winkler will conclude her 19-year Atlanta Ballet career by dancing a romantic duet with the partner who brought the highly regarded ballerina to Atlanta, her husband and fellow company artist John Welker.

Winkler and Welker will perform Diane Coburn Bruning’s “Berceuse”cq at the end of the contemporary mixed-repertory program “Mayhem” at Cobb Energy Performing Arts Center, following a video tribute to her. It’s a fitting finale, as the two have been paired dozens of times over the last two decades, frequently rasing the performance hall temperature.

Before her finale, the AJC asked the native Californian and her Ohio-raised husband, 37, to detail their long-running creative bond.

Read the full story on the AJC’s subscriber site,

Also, on our subscriber site, read our Personal Journeys profile of Winkler, detailing her challenge of returning to the stage after having a baby and the unexpected incident that led to her decision to retire:

Finally, on our all access site (, read what Atlanta’s dance community has to say about Winkler here.



Presented by Atlanta Ballet. 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday. $20-$115 plus fees. Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre, 2800 Cobb Galleria Parkway, Atlanta. 404-892-3303,

Christine Winkler, retiring after 19 years with the company, will perform in Helen Pickett’s “The Exiled” during the 2 p.m. and 8 p.m. performances on Saturday. Winkler will be honored following the 8 p.m. program with a video tribute and special performance with husband John Welker of Diane Coburn Bruning’s “Berceuse.”