Background Autumn 14

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The Crucible

Helen Pickett

Ten Poems 

Choreography | 
Christopher Bruce
Music | Dylan Thomas poems, read by Richard Burton

HelenHelen Pickett | Choreographer

Helen Pickett, born in San Diego, California, studied dance at The San Francisco Ballet School under the direction of Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin, and later, Helgi Tomasson. 

In 2005, Mikko Nissinen, director of the Boston Ballet, offered Helen her first choreographic commission, Etesian. The New York Choreographic Institute awarded her a Fellowship Initiative Grant in 2006. In the same year and through 2008, Helen choreographed for Boston Ballet, Washington Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Louisville Ballet and Ballet X. In 2007, Dance magazine named Helen one of 25 to Watch. She received a Choreographic Residency from Jacob’s Pillow in 2008. From 2009 through 2011, Helen created new ballets for Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet West, Boston Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem. In 2012 and 2013, her commissions include Atlanta Ballet, Semper Oper/Dresden Ballet, Vienna State Opera, Scottish Ballet and Smuin Ballet. Helen was one of the first choreographers to receive the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works Grant.

For over a decade Helen performed with William Forsythe’s Ballet Frankfurt. During her last season with Ballet Frankfurt, Helen simultaneously performed with The Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth Le Compte. She acted with the Group for five non-consecutive years in the OBIE award winning House/Lights, and North Atlantic. In 2005, Helen returned to the role, Agnes, as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet of Flanders, in William Forsythe’s Impressing the Czar. In 2009, Impressing the Czarreceived the Laurence Olivier Award and in 2012, the Prix de la Critique award for outstanding performance of the year.

Helen collaborates, as an actress and choreographer, with installation video artists and filmmakers including Eve Sussman, Toni Dove and Laurie Simmons. Helen, a founding member of Eve Sussman’s The Rufus Corporation, created the role of the Queen in 89 Seconds at Alcazar, which was shown at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and now is in the permanent collection at Museum of Modern Art in New York. In 2007, Helen acted in Sussman’s feature length film, The Rape of the Sabine Women. She played Sally Rand in Toni Dove's video installation and feature film, Spectropia

Helen teaches Forsythe-based improvisation and her motivational creative workshop entitled The Expansive Artist throughout Europe and the United States. Dance Europe published Helen’s article, Considering Cezanne, in 2006.

In 2011, Helen earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Hollins University. 

ChristopherChristopher Bruce | Choreographer

Christopher Bruce was born in England in 1945 and started studying dance at 11 years old. After studying at the Rambert School Christopher Bruce joined Rambert Ballet in 1963, where he quickly became the leading male dancer. Bruce appeared in works such as Don Quixote in 1964 and Coppelia in 1966. In 1977 Christopher was was appointed associate director of the company and was Associate Choreographer from 1979-87, where he created over twenty works for the company. Between 1986-91 he acted as associate choreographer for London Festival Ballet, later ENB, and resident choreographer for Houston Ballet in 1989. In 1994 he became artistic director for RDC. Often political in his work, he integrates classical ballet and modern dance, often set against popular music by artists like Bob Dylan, Rolling Stones. His productions include Cruel Garden, 1977, Ghost Dances, 1981, Swansong, 1987, and Rooster, 1991.




dylanDylan Thomas | Poet

Dylan Thomas, also known as Dylan Marlais Thomas, was a Welsh-born poet and writer who wrote exclusively in English. Apart from poetry, he also wrote short stories and scripts for films and radio, and often performed in some of them. He became very popular in America, much credited to his sonorous voice with a subtle Welsh lilt. Thomas became famous for his much acclaimed poems like Fern Hill, In Country Sleep and Ballad of the Long-legged Bait. His other important works included 18 Poems, Deaths and Entrances and the famous radio play Under Milk Wood. He became a legendary figure, both for his work and the boisterous way of his life. In 1982, a plaque was unveiled in his honor in Poets' Corner, Westminster Abbey. 

While he was a teenager, Thomas published his famous poems like, And death shall have no dominion, Before I Knocked and The Force That Through the Green Fuse Drives the Flower. In 1934, he published The Listener which was admired by senior poets like T. S. Eliot and Stephen Spender. On 18 December 1934, Thomas published his highly acclaimed first poetry volume, 18 Poems, for which he won a contest run by The Sunday Referee. In 1936, he met dancer Caitlin Macnamara in the Wheatsheaf pub, in the Fitzrovia area of London's West End.

He married her in a register office in Penzance, Cornwall on 11thJuly, 1937. The next year, they moved to a rented cottage in the village of Laugharne, Carmarthenshire, West Wales. When the World War II started, his friends entered in the war, but due to his physical sickness, he could not fight in war. He requested the director of the films division of the Ministry of Information for work and eventually got the job at Strand Films. Strand Films were producing films for the Ministry of Information and Thomas scripted five scripts in 1942 which included, This Is Colour, New Towns For Old, These Are The Men and Our Country (a sentimental tour of Britain).

In 1946, Thomas published his poetry volume, Deaths and Entrances. This book proved to be turning point in his career. Apart from penning poems, Thomas was famous as a versatile and dynamic speaker. In the early 1950s, he gathered widespread popularity among American audiences during his speaking tours in which he made over 200 broadcasts for the BBC. Dylan Thomas was best known for his famous work, Under Milk Wood, a radio play featuring the characters of Llareggub and was based in a fictional Welsh fishing village. This play took several years to get finished. Thomas wrote the first half mostly in South Leigh, Oxford, in 1948, while finishing the second half in America in May 1953. He performed Under Milk Wood solo for the first time on 3rd May at Harvard and then performed it again with a cast at the Poetry Centre in New York on May 14. He worked on the play for some for time in England and returned to America in October. Unfortunately, he died on 9th November before the BBC could record the play.


RichardRichard Burton | Actor

Richard Burton was one of the great British actors of the post-WWII period. The young Richard Jenkins was the son of a Welsh coal miner, and he received a scholarship to Oxford University to study acting and made his first stage appearance in the early 1940s.

His first film appearances were in non-descript movies such as Women of Dolwyn (1949), Waterfront Women (1950) and Green Grow the Rushes (1951). Then he started to get noticed by producers and audiences with his lead in My Cousin Rachel (1952), The Robe (1953) and Alexander the Great (1956), added to this he was also spending considerable time in stage productions, both in the UK and USA, often to splendid reviews.

The late 1950s was an exciting and inventive time in UK cinema, often referred to as the "British New Wave", and Burton was right in the thick of things, and showcased a sensational performance in Look Back in Anger (1959). He also appeared with a cavalcade of international stars in the WW2 magnum opus The Longest Day (1962), and then onto arguably his most "notorious" role as that of "Marc Antony" opposite Elizabeth Taylor in the hugely expensive Cleopatra (1963). This was, of course, the film that kick-started their fiery and passionate romance (plus two marriages), and the two of them appeared in several productions over the next few years including The V.I.P.s (1963),The Sandpiper (1965), the dynamic Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf? (1966) and The Taming of the Shrew (1967). However, Burton was often better when he was off on his own giving higher caliber performances, such as those in Becket (1964), the brilliant thriller The Spy Who Came in from the Cold (1965) and alongside Clint Eastwood in the actioner Where Eagles Dare (1968).

Burton was an avid fan of Shakespeare, poetry and reading, having once said "home is where the books are".


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