I used to think that ballet was just pirouettes, classical music and skinny people in aesthetically pleasing costumes. As someone who had never been exposed to the culture around this gracious and impassioned dance form, I doubted that I’d be able to comprehend and appreciate its finer intricacies. But after attending the final showing of the Atlanta Ballet’s 90th anniversary performance, I have a newfound appreciation for the dance form which stems a gracious expression of humanity. 

Hosted at the Cobb Energy Performing Arts Centre on Sept. 22, the performance was aptly titled “Love Fear Loss,” with the title routine choreographed by Ricardo Amarante and inspired by the life of French singer Édith Piaf and her music. The performance ranged from the eccentricities of new love, fear of its waning intimacy and, ultimately, tragic loss. I was struck by the ability of strict and stoic poses to convey those complex emotions. The fluidity housed between pointe poses and stretched bodily movements reflected the subtleties of companionship sprinkled between harsh realities of the world. Almost every movement of the body contained within itself a message, from the relatively unspectacular bent knee that conveyed vulnerability to every chest puff that signaled hope. 

The venue was magnificent, with elegant red fabric draped over the stage that served as a befitting backdrop for the afternoon. Throughout the course of the show, I realized why ballet is internationally beloved. Besides the Atlanta Ballet company employing dancers that hail from no less than 11 countries around the globe, I found this dance form to be an effective expression of emotions and a powerful reflection of our universal human experience. 

The show also featured a guest performance by Complexions Contemporary Ballet, headed by artistic director Dwight Rhoden, which contained excerpts from last year’s premiere of “WOKE” — produced as a reaction to the nature of today’s news environment. Surprisingly, I encountered hip-hop tracks for this performance as the dancers put out an energetic and emotionally evocative show. 

This concluding piece from Complexions reminded me of my short realization about the ubiquitous appreciation of ballet. It’s universality in music; it’s appreciation for the trained and perfected body control and movement; but most importantly it’s ability to convey universal feelings and emotions through physical motion. This expression is without any words or hard-lined narratives and seeps through single seconds of fluidity between years of perfection.