In 2010, The Atlanta Ballet's Artistic Director John McFall discovered Helen Pickett as one of the world's brightest rising stars in ballet choreography, and every season since has featured at least one of Pickett's works upon the Company's stage.
Now the collaboration between Pickett and The Atlanta Ballet will be further cemented, as McFall has called upon her to serve as the Company's new Resident Choreographer -- a three-year commitment that will include new works and an annual, one-week "Choreographic Essentials" workshop.
The announcement was made in tandem with the rollout of Atlanta Ballet's new five-year strategic plan, which specifically called for the addition of a resident choreographer as a major component of its artistic strategy.
A Creative Renaissance
Over the past few years, Atlanta Ballet has experienced a renaissance of sorts, marked by new leadership with the addition of veteran arts leader Arturo Jacobus as executive director, a new headquarters, and a wildly successful capital campaign. McFall has also sharpened the Company's focus artistically, renewing its commitment to creativity, innovation and signature works to establish the Atlanta Ballet brand as preeminent in the Southeast and one of the most distinctive in the world of dance.
"When thinking about our next steps as a ballet company and the artistic profile we wanted to build, Helen's was a name that continued to resonate with me," said McFall. "From my first encounter, I knew she was special -- the kind of artist our dancers needed to work with and the kind of artist our audiences needed to see. She brings a passion into the studio that's unmatched and connects with our dancers in a way that is earnest and heartfelt. She inspires them to reach deep inside themselves, and it translates to the stage in a way that is startling and wonderful. We're lucky to have her."
From "Petal" to "Prayer"
Pickett has presented on stages all over the world. Her initial collaboration with Atlanta Ballet was in March 2011 when McFall commissioned her "Petal" for the Company's Fusion program -- a work that proved to be a highlight of the night (and the season). For the 2011-12 season, McFall commissioned a world premiere from Pickett for the Company's "New Choreographic Voices" program. Pickett's "Prayer of Touch" for this program was another instant hit, which met with enthusiastic audience response and glowing reviews.
A San Diego native, Pickett began her dance career as a student under the direction of Lew Christensen and Michael Smuin and, later, Helgi Tomasson with The San Francisco Ballet. She then spent more than a decade with Ballet Frankfurt, achieving principal status, under the legendary William Forsythe, whom she credits with "shaping her aesthetic eye." Pickett soon began to develop her own voice as a dancemaker and in 2005 received her first choreographic commission from the Boston Ballet. Now, seven years later, Pickett has choreographed more than 20 works and has become one of the most sought-after choreographers in dance today.
"Helen is a perfect choice," added Atlanta Ballet Executive Director Arturo Jacobus. "She is innovative and fresh, and she brings to this Company the Forsythe legacy, along with her own unique voice and growing reputation. I know she will have a significant impact on the artistic DNA of Atlanta Ballet."
As a nod to her new position and promise of what's to come, Atlanta Ballet will reintroduce its patrons to Pickett this 12-13 season. Both Pickett's "Petal" and "Prayer of Touch" will be presented in anticipation of a Pickett world premiere for the Company's 13-14 season.
For more information on Helen Pickett or Atlanta Ballet, visit www.atlantaballet.com.