Talk of the Town - Bamboozled by ballet April 29 2004

Husband and wife dance duo's DIY Decatur digs

I was convinced as a child seeing Swan Lake for the first time that the ethereal figures gracing the stage lived in French chateaux or other exotic locales. Turns out they're as close as Decatur.

Atlanta Ballet artists (and husband and wife) John Welker and Christine Winkler recently showed off the Asian-inspired space they share with dogs Munster and Gouda, discussed their love of do-it-yourself projects and dispelled my Flashdance-induced misconceptions about ballet dancers.

The couple — leads in February's Romeo and Juliet — met while performing in Salt Lake City at Ballet West, when he was 18 and she was 21.

Creative Loafing: Did the two of you have an instant attraction or did somebody in the ballet set you up?

John: I had an instant attraction to you.

Christine: I did too. He likes to pretend like I didn't, but I did. It was love at first sight.

Undisciplined civilian that I am, I'm immediately mesmerized by the plate of homemade chocolate chip cookies on the counter, and colorful boxes of Girl Scout cookies lined up on a shelf in their retro kitchen.

As dancers, do you have certain diet requirements that you have to follow?

Christine: We don't. We eat pretty healthy, but you saw the Girl Scout cookies.

John: It's mostly vegetables, fruit and meat — a little Zonish. We don't discriminate. If it's good, we'll eat it.

John and Christine have arranged their home to accommodate frequent indoor and outdoor dinner parties. Hidden behind the house is a site that seems out of place in a suburban Atlanta back yard: vegetation that includes a California Redwood, palm tree and massive green and black bamboo.

Christine: They can grow up to 60 feet. It's about to chute. It chutes in the spring.

John: It grows like a foot a day. It's unbelievable.

Though the yard was a factor that drew John and Christine to the house, its initial unkempt state required intense maintenance. The couple's love of home repair projects (they count TBS' "House Rules" as a TV favorite) has created misadventures before. One late-night attempt to install a washer/dryer in a former linen closet led to disaster, when an antiquated water valve broke.

John: I was just trying to loosen it up and it was so rusted and welded together, I actually snapped it.

Christine: Water was everywhere.

John: This was like at 11 o'clock at night, so I just wanted to finish the job and get [the washer/dryer] in here.

Christine: So we had to call a plumber. If we ever did anything major, like taking out a wall, I would definitely want someone to be involved. We would definitely not be up for that.

John: I don't know, I might be up for that. I wouldn't tell her, though. I'd wait till she was out of town.