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Choreographer dances to beat of a different drum with ‘Crea’

Dance preview

“Crea” by gloATL

8 p.m. Dec. 10. $25-$100. High Museum of Art’s Robinson Atrium, 1280 Peachtree St. N.E. 404-733-5000, www.gloATL.com.

By Pierre Ruhe

An ambitious choreographer and her pioneering dancers are dynamiting the rusty old silos of Atlanta’s arts scene.

Founded this year by dance maker Lauri Stallings, the troupe is called gloATL. In July, it performed “Rapt,” a site-specific dance performed outside on the Woodruff Arts Center’s plaza and lawn. Dramatic lighting, Monet’s “Water Lilies” and other images were projected on the white walls of architect Richard Meier’s modernist High Museum of Art and on Renzo Piano’s more recent additions. The music covered the gamut of styles, as historic as Vivaldi and as in-the-moment as OutKast.

On Dec. 10, the 13-member gloATL company returns to the arts center — indoors, this time — for “Crea.” For the first time, they’ll dance to live music, performed by Sonic Generator, the Georgia Tech ensemble-in-residence that is led by Atlanta Symphony Orchestra percussionist Thomas Sherwood. It’s another performance that might alter the city’s perceptions of what is possible.

Stallings is waifish and strong, with a head of unruly red hair that refuses to stay ponytailed. After a career as a professional in ballet and modern dance, she last performed onstage four years ago, as a member of Hubbard Street Dance Chicago. Now she makes the dances for others.

“You don’t want the dance maker inside the work — there’s no perspective,” she said. She has already scored several notable successes, including Atlanta Ballet’s “Big” with OutKast rapper Big Boi. She’s all about the organic interplay of the arts.

“I spend my off hours thinking about photography and sculpture and the other arts,” she says, “and my choreography is very largely a response to the surrounding architecture, where gloATL is like water: we’ll shape to fill whatever space we’re in.”

In conversation, Stallings is a bit of a mystic. “The arts are more alike than different,” she offered. “Richard Meier’s architecture screams to us: ‘Move!’ ‘Dance!’ His atrium is built on spontaneity and a mode of play, and there’s a crazy vortex of energy in there that sucks you upward. He seems to be talking [in architecture] in the same movement language that our dancers use.”

Yet Stallings has proven an adroit politician, too. The Woodruff Arts Center is 41 years old — and doesn’t include a dance division — yet she has been able to break through the center’s bureaucratic logjam and turf politics to involve and celebrate many arts at once. Though “Crea” is loosely billed as a collaboration of the Alliance Theatre, the High, the ASO and the arts center, none of the institutions is helping fund it. Revenue will come primarily from ticket sales, according to Virginia Vann, an arts center vice president spearheading efforts to make the Woodruff what she called “a destination, a gathering place.”

“Most arts institutions are thinly staffed,” says Vann, “and it’s all you can do to get out your own product. The arts center isn’t structured to do collaborations — but now with gloATL and other events, that’s starting to change,” Vann said.

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[...] an interview with Pierre Ruhe of ArtsCriticATL.com — read the entire thing on the AJC Arts & Culture blog — Stallings explains: “I spend my off hours thinking about photography and sculpture and [...]