Dancing Into The Serenbe Institute

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Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre

Every artist remembers their first experience with their chosen medium. The moment they were inspired to follow a passion. For Tara Lee, who danced with Atlanta Ballet for 21 years, it was when the ballerina looked up at her as she watched from the theatre balcony of her first ballet. She felt connected to something beautiful. Something significant.

She felt that beauty and significance once more when the opportunity presented itself to be a part of a new dance company with fellow Atlanta Ballet performers John Welker, Christian Clark, Heath Gill and Rachel Van Buskirk. Collectively, they’d been with Atlanta Ballet more than 70 years – John, 22; Christian, 15; Heath, 7; and Rachel, 15 – but all were at the end of their contracts and seeking something new.

 Photo by Felipe Barral

Photo by Felipe Barral

“We felt compelled to extend our creative reach as dancers and choreographers. To have creative freedom” said Tara. “The goal is to be freer and unapologetically truthful as performers.”

And with that, Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre (TMBT) was formed. John was elected to be the company’s director, with Tara and Heath as choreographers. All that was left was to find funding and a place to perform. Enter, The Serenbe Institute.

 Photo by Darvensky Louis

Photo by Darvensky Louis

Lee Foster, a member of The Serenbe Institute board, was working with the Atlanta Ballet on Carmina Real, their final performance of the season, when she learned that Heath Gil wasn’t renewing his contract. She immediately thought of the Institute and invited Heath and John Welker to Serenbe to discuss opportunities with other board members. 

“The Serenbe Institute is committed to becoming a robust steward of a thriving and sustainable arts, culture and environmentally-conscious community,” said Institute Chair Dianne Cohen. “We are thrilled to have the level of art that AIR Serenbe, Serenbe Playhouse and Serenbe Film bring to this mission, but we’ve always known that dance was a missing element.”

According to Christian Clark, an Atlanta native, Serenbe Institute’s reputations for artistic excellence and risk-taking had interested them for some time, so this was, in John’s words, another “beautifully significant moment,” and a catalyst in forming a relationship between TMBT and The Serenbe Institute.

“What was so wonderful about Serenbe was that our attraction was based primarily on a human level, and still is,” said John. “Serenbe Institute is here to facilitate our artistic growth and help us achieve our goals.”

The Terminus dancers were also introduced to the owner of Westside Cultural Arts Center, who generously offered to provide space where TMBT could rehearse, perform indoors and hold professional education classes. Westside was a natural fit and complement to what Terminus is doing and fits with the arts center’s goal of becoming a cultural hub of West Midtown.

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“We wanted Atlanta to be a creative hotbed that the dance world looks upon as the trendsetter,” said John. “It would be hard to over-exaggerate how wonderfully unique the Serenbe Institute is in the world of the arts and how that will help us reach our goals.”

Those goals aren’t small, but now, they will have the additional backing of being presented by The Serenbe Institute in cooperation with Westside Cultural Arts Center. With more than 80 years of professional dance experience among them, TMBT looks forward to find an artistic voice that moves the ballet art form into the present.Their hope is, through a mix of traditional and non-traditional performances, they will reach new dance audiences and raise the profile of dance so when a student, dancer or choreographer is looking for inspiration, no matter where they are in the world they will think of Atlanta, Serenbe and Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre.

Terminus Modern Ballet Theatre will perform fall-en at Serenbe October 5-7 & 12-14. For more information and tickets, visit serenbe.com/events. To learn more about TMBT visit terminus-serenbe.com and for The Serenbe Institute visit serenbeinstitute.com.