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North Atlanta Dance Co. to present the ballet 'Carmen'

Photo: Richard Calmes. North Atlanta Dance Theatre will present the tragic tale "Carmen" at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday. This tale of lust, murder and treachery is performed to the Carmen Suite created by the composer Rodion Shchedrin for his famous Bolshoi ballerina wife, Maya Plisetskaya, and it is based on the original opera composed by Georges Bizet.

Photo: Richard Calmes. North Atlanta Dance Theatre will present the tragic tale "Carmen" at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center at 7:30 p.m. today and Saturday. This tale of lust, murder and treachery is performed to the Carmen Suite created by the composer Rodion Shchedrin for his famous Bolshoi ballerina wife, Maya Plisetskaya, and it is based on the original opera composed by Georges Bizet.

"Carmen" is one of the most popular and familiar operas ever written, with its high drama and memorable melodies. Tonight and Saturday at 7:30 p.m., Gwinnett audiences can thoroughly enjoy this colorful and tragic tale in ballet form. North Atlanta Dance Company will present "Carmen" plus two other works at the Gwinnett Performing Arts Center.

Tickets range from $25 to $18 in the orchestra and $20 to $13 in the balcony with discounts for seniors, students and groups. They can be purchased through any Ticketmaster location, at the Gwinnett Center Box Office, or by calling 770-772-8000.

"Carmen" is one of Artistic Director and Choreographer Michael Garrison's favorite pieces of music, according to NADT spokesperson Kitty Garrison.

"The music has so much passion and power, which is what Michael loves," Garrison said. "The music is so powerful it always makes the audience sit up and feel something!"

Portraying the sultry and devious Carmen is ballerina Stacy Slichter, who Garrison describes as strong both technically and emotionally.

"The role of Carmen requires a dancer to also be an actress, and Stacy is wonderful at both," Garrison said.

Raul Penaida will portray Carmen's lover Don Jose, and Norbert Nirewicz will dance the role of his rival, the Toreador. Another fascinating role that has been woven into the ballet is that of Fate, Carmen's nemesis. Dancing this role is Ellen d'Hemecourt. Erin Elizabeth Watts, lately with Georgia Ballet, will dance the role of the cigarette factory girl who is murdered by Carmen in the opening scene, and Ralph Jacque will portray the Officer.

This tale of lust, murder and treachery is performed to the Carmen Suite created by the composer Shchredrin for his famous Bolshoi ballerina wife, Maia Plisetskaya, and it is based on the original opera composed by Bizet.

"The level of what is onstage in 'Carmen' is totally professional," Garrison said. North Atlanta Dance Theatre is one of few professional companies in the Atlanta area. Ten professionals are at the heart of this group which can grow to as many as 22 professionals depending on the production performed.

"We have a very unique situation that has evolved here," Garrison said. "Over the 14 years of our existence, we have become a place where a professional dancer who, for whatever reason, cannot be in a professional company dancing 50 productions a year, but has phenomenal technique, can still pursue their dancing career."

NADT is the professional performing branch of North Atlanta Dance Academy, which boasts a state-of-the-art dance education facility located at 10700 State Bridge Road. Many of the pre-professional students will also be performing on this weekend, but they will not be in "Carmen." They have their own two, very special pieces with which to charm the audience.

"'Narada' is a neoclassical flamenco piece with gypsy overtones. Seventeen dancers onstage in long black dresses with red ruffling will be mesmerizing," Garrison said.

Then there is "Karnival," which is composed of 15 separate vignettes which range from the quirky to 50s novelty songs to a tango diva portrayed by Erin Elizabeth Watts.

"'Karnival' is very colorful," Garrison said. "It will definitely entertain the younger crowd and delight the older crowd."

To learn more about North Atlanta Dance Theatre and North Atlanta Dance Academy, visit the website at www.northatlantadance.com or call 770-772-8000.

Holley Calmes is a freelance writer and public relations consultant specializing in the arts. Email her at hcalmes@mindspring.com.