Atlanta’s Terminus to premiere modern ballet about ‘forgotten’ people

The choreographer of the new work, which opens Saturday, also dances with the Atlanta Ballet.
From left, Terminus dancers Christian Clark, Elizabeth Labovitz, Rachel Van Buskirk and Georgia Dalton will perform this weekend. Photo: Christina Massad

Credit: Christina Massad

Credit: Christina Massad

From left, Terminus dancers Christian Clark, Elizabeth Labovitz, Rachel Van Buskirk and Georgia Dalton will perform this weekend. Photo: Christina Massad

This story was originally published by ArtsATL.

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre has been through a lot of ups and downs since it was founded six years ago, but a consistent thread has been director John Welker’s commitment to creating new narrative ballets that push the art form forward.

“Storytelling is a hallmark of what we do,” he said.

Welker discusses that vision with every choreographer who creates for the company, but he leaves it up to her or him to decide whether to craft a literal storytelling work or something more abstract.

One of the premieres launching the company’s 2023-24 season on Saturday, Sept. 23 in its new White Box Theater in Buckhead is “The Adoption of Faith,” a new, mostly literal narrative work by choreographer and Atlanta Ballet dancer Darian Kane.

It’s the first work Kane has choreographed for Terminus and the first she has created with her partner Alec Zais, a composer, writer and lover of history. He composed the score and created the storyline while Kane developed the movement, relying heavily on pedestrian gestures and stripping movement down to its raw essence.

The “Adoption of Faith” is a fictional story set in World War II and follows a group of Romani women and children, giving them a voice not often heard.

According to Zais, the idea emerged from his learning about the gypsy culture and its history throughout Eastern Europe.

“I was moved by their unique struggle,” he wrote in an email, “more specifically the near complete ignorance of 800,000 of their people murdered in the Holocaust, and what seems to be an unspoken general acceptance of their discrimination to this day.”

The day after a weekend of performances in Atlanta Ballet’s “La Sylphide,” Kane talked about the work and her process. She acknowledges that it’s been a heavy lift, learning how to effectively weave storytelling with movement, but she clearly enjoys the challenge.

“This is the first time I’ve taken on a narrative work and it slapped me around a lot,” she said. “We wanted to represent the lives of the people who have been forgotten during wars like this and show another type of bravery. It’s a tragedy with a surprise ending, with the theme that it takes faith to forgive.”

Dancer-choreographer Darian Kane's “The Adoption of Faith” will premiere Saturday. Photo: Courtesy of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre

Credit: Courtesy of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre

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Credit: Courtesy of Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre

When Welker approached her about creating a ballet for Terminus, he welcomed her ideas without hesitation, she said, even though he didn’t know Zais and was aware Kane was new to narrative ballet.

“I don’t know many companies willing to take this kind of risk,” she said.

For his part, Welker appreciates Kane’s willingness to experiment.

“Darian dares to take chances,” he said. “I really appreciate that in her. She fully embraces her voice as quirky and at times humorous, and she has a high degree of integrity.”

The ballets she’s created in the past are a mashup of unique musical choices and pedestrian gestures artfully embedded within the classical form. In “Dr. Rainbow’s Infinity Mirror,” created for Atlanta Ballet in 2021, for instance, the vocabulary was unorthodox for a ballet company. The dancers also wore socks instead of shoes, giving the movement a unique, not-quite-ballet quality.

Kane has also been honing her choreographic skills through dance films created for the Artists Climate Collective, a group of artists committed to bringing awareness to climate change.

She knows that a dancer’s career is short and that dancing won’t always sustain her. That’s one of the reasons why she and Zais are hoping “The Adoption of Faith” will be the beginning of a long-term collaboration.

The Terminus mixed bill “Out of the Box” runs Sept. 23, 24, 30 and Oct. 1 will also include the premiere of Rachel Van Buskirk’s “Secrets” and a work in progress by Shane Urton, a dancer with Royal Ballet of Flanders. His ballet is titled “Devotion & Dreams” and will be presented in its complete form later in the season.


“Out of the Box”

Sept. 23-Oct. 1. 8 p.m. Saturdays and 2 p.m. Sundays. $65-$125. Students, $25. Tula Arts Center, 75 Bennett St. NW, Suite A-2, Atlanta. 404-446-0510,


Gillian Anne Renault has been an ArtsATL contributor since 2012 and Senior Editor for Art+Design and Dance since 2021. She has covered dance for the Los Angeles Daily News, Herald Examiner and Ballet News, and on radio stations such as KCRW, the NPR affiliate in Santa Monica, California. Many years ago, she was awarded an NEA Fellowship to attend American Dance Festival’s Dance Criticism program.

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Credit: ArtsATL

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Credit: ArtsATL


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