These Films Will Change The Way You Think Of Ballet

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Principal dancers Tiit Helimets and Ana Sophia Scheller
Principal dancers Tiit Helimets and Ana Sophia Scheller

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

One of the things that the San Francisco Ballet is known for is its appreciation of new choreography. Artistic director Helgi Tomasson is a champion of new works and this season, the company’s 85th, he’s pushing boundaries with 12 thrilling never-before-seen pieces. Tomasson commissioned new dances from world-renowned and up-and-coming choreographers Alonzo King, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Arthur Pita, Cathy Marston, Christopher Wheeldon, David Dawson, Dwight Rhoden, Edwaard Liang, Justin Peck, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch, and Trey McIntyre. The works will debut during the ballet’s Unbound Festival, a celebration of innovation taking place at the end of the company’s repertory season, April 20 to May 6, 2018.

Principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz
Principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan and Vitor Luiz

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

In anticipation of the event, the ballet created a series of films that preview four of the new works. Last night the ballet hosted a premiere for the movies at The Chapel in the Mission. Myles Thatcher, one of the choreographers (who is also a member of the company’s corps de ballet), and Sasha de Sola, a beloved principal, hosted the party. The duo introduced the directors and dances, and provided insider insight to the Unbound Festival. Tomasson sorted the dancers into four groups and each one worked with a different set of three choreographers.

The highlight of the evening was, of course, the films. The first movie previewed Guernica, a dance by Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. Inspired by the art of Picasso and set to haunting music, the dancers, wearing bull horns, were powerful and precise. The viewer feels almost uncomfortable when watching it, but the movement is too suspenseful to turn away.

The second film, a preview of Alonzo King’s The Collective Agreement, was ominous and sensual. The directing group, Fountain 3 Films (who also did the Guernica film), mixed slow motion close-up silhouettes of the dancers with real time dancing. Elements of nature—crashing waves, a brilliant sun, cumulus clouds—juxtaposed the dancers.

The third film, from directing team Caruso Company and choreographed by Cathy Marston, was Snowblind. The piece features a misery-filled love triangle, a husband who falls in love with the maid and the wife goes blind all the while with snow floating in the background.

The fourth and final film—directed by Red Panel Creative—was the most thrilling. The dance, Let’s Begin at the End was choreographed by Dwight Rhoden. Set in a massive warehouse in Oakland, a trio of couples danced as if in love. Breath plays a part of the film, that goes from regular time to slow motion seamlessly. The movement is incredibly sexy and there is an intimate quality to it. The viewer feels as if they are watching the entire love story of a broken relationship unfold.

After watching the movies, the audience is left wanting more and perhaps, given a new perspective of what ballet can be—daring, erotic, arousing, expressive, and captivating.

Tickets for the Unbound Festival are now on sale.

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