Philip Neal, who was a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet for 17 years before retiring last year, is in Marietta this week teaching the 16 professional dancers at The Georgia Ballet.
He is assisting the company with a piece called "Who Cares?" by George Balanchine with music by George Gershwin, which will be part of the "Rhythm and Rhapsody" production on Oct. 22 and 23. Neal first worked with the company last fall.
The show, he said, "has a very jazzy feel to it, but also some very technical ballet moves in it. I already had a good sense of who the dancers were ... and I thought that they could do it."
"We've only worked one day, and I feel very confident that they are up to the challenge," Neal said. He now works for the Balanchine Trust, which qualifies professional companies that want to perform Balanchine's works.
Michelle Ziemann-DeVos, executive director of The Georgia Ballet, is thrilled to have Neal work with her company.
"It's a testament to the level of our training that someone of his stature would be interested in teaching our students," she said. "It's an honor."
Neal said he is used to working with larger dance companies with 50 to 80 professionals.
"I really like working with the smaller companies, because there's a more intimate feel and there's good camaraderie amongst them," he said. "They've very disciplined, they're very polite, so you get things done quickly, which speaks of who's managing it. ... I like to help them grow because I think in a place like Marietta, people need to know how important the arts are, and what it contributes to the community."
"Rhythm and Rhapsody" is a three-part production set to Gershwin's music. Besides "Who Cares," the production also includes "Prelude Pictures," a premiere by The Georgia Ballet's resident choreographer Janusz Mazon; and "Aurora's Wedding."
Performances are 7 p.m. Oct. 22 and 2 p.m. Oct. 23 at the Jennie T. Anderson Theatre at the Cobb Civic Center in Marietta. Tickets are $15 to $33.
In December, the ballet will present the perennial classic "The Nutcracker." That show, which will also be performed at the Anderson Theatre at the Civic Center, will run for five performances from Dec. 2 through Dec. 4.
The 7 p.m. show on Dec. 3 will be a benefit for the YWCA of Northwest Georgia, and will feature four celebrity guests dancing briefly onstage: David Connell, president and CEO of the Cobb Chamber of Commerce; Holly Comer, executive director of the YWCA of Northwest Georgia; Earl Reece, executive director of the Earl Smith Strand Theatre; and Kim Gresh, chief executive officer of S.A. White Oil Company.
Tickets for that performance range from $17 to $38, and $5 of every ticket sold will be donated to the YWCA of Northwest Georgia.
In February, the ballet will conclude its season with "Swirling Soiree: An Evening of New Dances, Great Finds and Tasty Eats."
The company will perform new works by established and emerging choreographers. The event will also include a reception and a silent auction with proceeds to benefit The Georgia Ballet.
"Swirling Soiree" is set for 7 p.m. Feb. 4 at The Murray Arts Center on the campus of Mount Paran Christian School in Kennesaw. Tickets are $15 to $24.
The Georgia Ballet was founded in 1960 by Marietta native Iris Hensley, and includes both a professional company and a dance school.