It's About Engagement


Atlanta Ballet keeps KSU intern on her toes

KENNESAW, Ga. (Mar 28, 2019) — For many Kennesaw State dance students, just watching the Atlanta Ballet’s Nutcracker at The Fox Theatre would be a Sugar Plum Fairy tale come true. A big fan, senior dance student Lily Helmly, worked behind the scenes of the well-known production during her arts administration internship with the premier dance company.

Helmly, who is a student assistant with the KSU Dance Department, had asked her supervisor, production manager David Tatu, for internship networking advice. Before joining KSU, Tatu was the Atlanta Ballet’s production manager.

“Mr. Tatu contacted the company, explained I had production and teaching experience and said I could do either of those or administrative work,” Helmly said. “That led to an arts administration internship under the Ballet’s general manager, Thomas Fowlkes.”

Lily Helmly and David Tatu

Helmly’s arts administrative internship exposed her to the fast-paced world of professional ballet, where it’s not just the dancers who are kept on their toes but the people working behind the scenes who support their efforts.

“My biggest responsibility with the Nutcracker was scanning the music for the orchestra,” she said. “They received a new version of the Tchaikovsky score and they needed help creating digital copies for each musician.”

With time and effort, Helmly mastered a variety of roles during her fall semester internship, proving herself invaluable to the Ballet’s staff.

“One afternoon, the stage manager brought the Nutcracker doll prop into the office and said the choreographer didn’t like the way the doll looked, the hair was not right. So, I was given some combs, hairspray and gel to make the Nutcracker doll’s hair look a certain way,” she said.

Helmly also sewed hooks and bars onto various costumes.

“When I helped with something that seemed so trivial, yet was so crucial to the Nutcracker production,” she said, “each person was very appreciative knowing how much there was to do.”

December’s run of the Nutcracker offered patrons a new take on the classic ballet.

“The props, set design, and costuming were on a new level. Everything was bigger, more elaborate, more detailed than any professional ballet that I’ve seen,” Helmly said.

While the production had a new version of the traditional roles of the Sugar Plum Fairy and Cavalier, Helmly explained that choreographer Yuri Possokhov revamped certain scenes.

“It was honestly overwhelming to watch them rehearse,” said the 21-year-old Mariettan, who interned at the Michael C. Carlos Center, the Ballet’s main location in West Midtown. “There were so many people in the studio and a lot of people were giving directions, whether it was the choreographer or the rehearsal coaches or the directors. To see the dancers in the studio working through the choreography was so fascinating.

“As a dancer, I know what being in rehearsal is like, so to see that on a professional level and to watch the show onstage was just a very unique experience for me,” said Helmly, who is pursuing a bachelor of arts in dance with a concentration in ballet.

Lily Helmly

Helmly said she has learned so much from the Ballet internship about dance, as well as the business side of the arts.

“I’m glad I got to see into the business side of a large dance company that has been so successful for many years, and interact with several members of the administrative board as well as the production board,” she said. “It was so interesting to see just how many people, aside from the company members and artistic team, work to make the entire company function.”

As someone who plans on becoming a professional dancer and dance instructor when she graduates next year, Helmly said she chose to attend KSU for its dance program.

“It stood out because of the national recognition the program has achieved, how qualified and impressive the faculty is, and how affordable KSU is,” she said.

For Helmly, who started dancing at age three, the Atlanta Ballet internship is yet another step closer to her eventual career in the arts.

– Robert S. Godlewski

Photos by Rob Witzel


A leader in innovative teaching and learning, Kennesaw State University offers undergraduate, graduate and doctoral degrees to its nearly 43,000 students. With 11 colleges on two metro Atlanta campuses, Kennesaw State is a member of the University System of Georgia. The university’s vibrant campus culture, diverse population, strong global ties and entrepreneurial spirit draw students from throughout the country and the world. Kennesaw State is a Carnegie-designated doctoral research institution (R2), placing it among an elite group of only 6 percent of U.S. colleges and universities with an R1 or R2 status. For more information, visit