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Culture notes: Atlanta Ballet’s Van Buskirk dance mag covergirl; Kenny Leon in the media swirl

Atlanta cover girl

Atlanta Ballet dancer Rachel Van Buskirk is en pointe on the cover of Dance magazine’s January issue, the most prominently presented rising star in the publication’s annual “25 to Watch” feature.

Started in 2001, the prestigious survey essays top-flight dancers, choreographers and troupes from around the world and dance trends to watch. The 26-year-old Vancouver native who joined Atlanta Ballet in 2006 was nominated by Atlanta dance writer and AJC contributor Cynthia Perry.

“No matter the role, Van Buskirk imbues it with musical and emotional spontaneity,” Perry writes.

This season Van Buskirk can be seen in February’s Twyla Tharp world premiere “The Princess and the Goblin,” as well as in works by Jorma Elo, Christopher Wheeldon and Helen Pickett.

“She has a spiritual dimension, an aura of exuberance that’s compelling,” Atlanta Ballet artistic director John McFall said in the article. “Her whole soul sparkles through her eyes.”

Van Buskirk is the second Atlanta Ballet company member to be selected for “25 to Watch” and the first to be featured on the cover. Company mate Peng-Yu Chen was selected in 2007.

To read the full story: HOWARD POUSNER

Leon media watch

With two shows running concurrently on Broadway, Atlanta director Kenny Leon is commanding serious national media attention:

  • If you missed Leon’s late December appearance on PBS’ “Charlie Rose,” along with “The Mountaintop” playwright Katori Hall and stars Samuel L. Jackson and Angela Bassett, the entire show is now posted online at
  • One of the breakout stars of “Stick Fly,” Lydia R. Diamond’s play that explores relationships among the LeVays, an extended well-to-do African-American clan on Martha’s Vineyard, is Condola Rashad, daughter of frequent Leon collaborator Phylicia Rashad.

In a TheaterMania interview, Condola is asked about how, working with the director, she attained the realism of her portrayal of as Cheryl, the daughter of the LeVay family maid.

“Kenny’s idea of directing — and he’s the same way with everyone — is to say, ‘You tell me the truth, and if you don’t, I’ll tell you,’” the actress responded. “Personally, I love working with a director who tells you when you are terrible or if you’re forcing something.”

For the full story, go to and search: Condola Rashad Makes It Stick.

  • Leon also shared the cover of December’s Black Enterprise magazine with “Stick Fly” playwright Diamond and producer Alicia Keys, illustrating a story that examines how “sparks of color are shining on the Great White Way,” with five plays or musicals featuring prominent African-American characters, actors or story lines in the 2011-12 season. Read the full story at HOWARD POUSNER

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