Wabi Sabi on the Beltline: Guerilla Movement

When someone says “guerilla,” to me at least, two images are conjured: Guerilla warfare in the jungles of Vietnam or Colombia, or a Rage Against The Machine track. However, Wabi Sabi on the Beltline took a unique approach, assaulting our senses with movement and music, in a truly guerilla fashion.

Wabi Sabi is inspired by the Japanese worldview and Buddhist precepts looking at sincerity, simplicity, and integrity of the natural world; more specifically riffing on the three marks of existence: impermanence, suffering and emptiness. I caught my first Wabi Sabi performance at the High, and you can see the nuances of growth and decay in the movement, the music, and the costuming. They’ll be doing another free show on November 4, 2016 at the High Museum.


On August 6, dancers of the Atlanta Ballet took to the Beltline, to bring ballet to the masses on a sunny Saturday afternoon. From 5pm to 7pm, people to follow a roving dance troupe as they peddled their artistic wares.

Starting at the Ladybird Grove & Mess Hall, Devon Joslin laid down an improv dance solo, commingling with the crowd, moving to contemporary music rather than the classical music most people freely associate with ballet. There were no pointe shoes, there were no tutus, but there was elegant movement. And movement, this writer is starting to learn, is what it’s all about.

Both being moved, and watching the movements themselves.

From there, John Welker, a 22 seasoned veteran on the Atlanta Ballet and the mastermind behind the Wabi Sabi saga, invited the crowd of onlookers to another location, where we experienced live music on the Cello from Roy Harran (Bach if memory serves). At the overpass, amidst all the street art and graffiti, people of all walks of life collected. I saw families, little boys and little girls, couples – young and old, women that looked like dancers themselves, and even “frat bros” were in attendance. At that moment, I looked around, and truly felt the transformative power and community the arts can bring to all of us. I know very little about ballet, and I’m sure I wasn’t the only one, but everyone stood enamored, especially in the next piece we say adjacent to where we were as mellifluous cello music bellowed in the echoes of the underpass.

At Old Fourth Ward Skate Park, Alexandre Barros and Rachel Van Buskirk, performed a moving duet entitled Me In Your Fall. Dragonflies flitted about as they moved in unison to a track reminiscent of Portishead’s breathy sound, with a saw bass and glitch breaks; with hints of Massive Attack influences. The crowd, now a completely heterogeneous mix of folks, looking on with enthusiasm as they danced – and again even to an untrained eye – you could see the emotiveness in Rachel’s and Alexandre’s and how the piece was illustrative of a turbulent and passionate relationship.

From there, the roving troupe took to Ponce City Market to perform How to Be a Person – one of my favorite pieces in the Wabi Sabi arsenal of artistic movement. I’ll talk more about this gymnastically exuberant piece in my review of Wabi Sabi at Serenbe, which will be forthcoming, along with an interview with John Welker himself.