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Photo: Mihaela Bodlovic.
Helen Pickett, a San Diego, California native, has created over 40 ballets in the U.S. and Europe. She was recently named, co-director for Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary program for 2021. From 2012-2017, she was Resident Choreographer for Atlanta Ballet. The Crucible, her new full length for Scottish Ballet, which premiered at Edinburgh International Festival, has won two awards, UK Theatre Critics Award and the Herald Angel Award. The Guardian newspaper called it, “…a riveting gift of a show.” Pickett won Best Choreographer and Best Dance Production for her full length, Camino Real, in 2015. Critic, Manning Harris wrote that Camino Real would “become a legend in the dance world.” In 2014, she won Best Choreographer for The Exiled.
In 2021, Pickett’s commissions include American Ballet Theatre, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre and Cincinnati Ballet. From 2005-2020, Pickett choreographed work for: Boston Ballet (6), Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet West (2), Dance Theatre of Harlem, Semper Oper/Dresden Ballet, Vienna State Opera, Scottish Ballet (3), Pennsylvania Ballet, Kansas City Ballet, Oregon Ballet Theatre, Alberta Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Charlotte Ballet(2), Atlanta Ballet (4), Washington Ballet, Aspen Santa Fe Ballet (2), Louisville Ballet (2), Ballet X, Smuin Ballet(2), Oklahoma City Ballet(2), Sacramento Ballet, and Washington Ballet. In addition, she choreographed for the Chicago Lyric Opera, Les Troyens, and, in London, an evening length, multi-media musical, Voices of the Amazon.
Starting June 1, and completing August 23, 2020, Pickett created Home Studies I, II, III, dances for film, a Zoom Choreography Triptych. The choreography and all rehearsals were conducted in homes. The dancers were from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Les Grands Ballet Canadians de Montreal and Royal Swedish Ballet. It was shown at Virtual Pathways Dance Festival in September 2020. In August 2020, Scottish Ballet premiered, Trace, a duet created for film, in My Light Shines On: An Evening with Scottish Ballet for the Edinburgh International Festival. In September, Pickett started her new 10- part dance film series, The Shakespeare Cycle. To date, six films have been completed. Three films, from that cycle, in cooperation with Kansas City Ballet, will be featured on a PBS special.
On May 1, 2020, Pickett created and produced a talk show. The intimate one-on-one conversations would become Creative Vitality Jam Sessions, with the first interview on May 20th. Pickett created CVJS to not only highlight extraordinary dance and theater artists but also to support and build an inclusive, equitable dance community. 55 sessions and counting!
Pickett received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from New York Choreographic Institute, 2006. Dance Magazine named Pickett one of 25 to Watch, 2007. Jacob’s Pillow awarded her a Choreographic Residency, 2008. Pickett was one of the first choreographers to receive the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works Grant. In 2016, Pickett received an Honorary Doctorate from University of North Carolina School of the Arts.
Pickett collaborated, as an actress and choreographer, with the installation video artists and filmmakers: Eve Sussman, Toni Dove, and Laurie Simmons. Pickett, a founding member of Eve Sussman’s The Rufus Corporation, played the Queen in 89 Seconds at Alcazar, which premiered at the 2004 Whitney Biennial, and also acted in Sussman’s feature length film, The Rape of the Sabine Women. She choreographed the bubble dance and played Sally Rand in Toni Dove’s video installation and film, Spectropia. Pickett choreographed the dance sequences, for Laurie Simmons’, The Music of Regret, which premiered at Museum of Modern Art in New York.
Pickett performed with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, 1987-1998. During her last season with Ballet Frankfurt, Pickett simultaneously performed with The Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth Le Compte, in the OBIE award winning House/Lights and North Atlantic. From 2005- 2012, Pickett reprised the speaking role, Agnes, as a guest artist with The Royal Ballet of Flanders, in William Forsythe’s Impressing the Czar. In 2009, Impressing the Czar received the Laurence Olivier Award, and in 2012, the Prix de la Critique award for outstanding performance of the year. From 2013-2017, Pickett performed Agnes with Dresden Semper Oper Ballet.
In 2011, Pickett earned a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Hollins University. For her Master’s Thesis she collaborated with Christopher Janney, sound and light architect.
Pickett created a choreographic intensive for college age choreographers entitled, Choreographic Essentials, and a motivational creative workshop for the general public entitled Step into Courage. She has taught Forsythe Improvisation Technologies throughout the United States. In addition, Pickett is a mentor to young choreographers, under graduate and MFA students throughout the United States. She was Distinguished Visiting Artist at University of North Carolina School of the Arts from 2016-2020.
In 2006, Dance Europe published Pickett’s article, Considering Cezanne. In 2012, Emory University published her writing for the Vulnerability and the Human Condition Initiative, director Martha Fineman, that appeared on the Emory University School of Law website. In 2019, The American Stroke Association published the ode to her parents entitled, A Tribute to Love.