San Francisco Ballet launches Creation House, first-of-its-kind research, creation, and talent incubator
Earlier this week, San Francisco Ballet (SF Ballet) launched Creation House, a new multifaceted initiative offering SF Ballet company members, SF Ballet School students, and guest artists an expansive portfolio of career-enhancing creative opportunities with a focus on choreography and new work development. The initiative’s four strands—Choreographic Residencies, the Choreographic Exchange and Physical Play workshops, ChoreoLabs, and the SF Ballet School Choreographic Program—will provide space and time for creative exploration and mentorship within the company, expanding upon SF Ballet’s longstanding commitment to fostering innovation and new works, nurturing rising choreographic talent, and celebrating collaboration within the artistic communities of San Francisco and beyond.
Devised and directed by Artistic Director Tamara Rojo and Associate Artistic Director Kerry Nicholls, the Creation House program will join a suite of new professional development initiatives that reflect SF Ballet’s expanded dedication to holistically supporting the careers of dancers within the school and the company. These will include opportunities for dancers to participate in a two-year leadership training program, learn additional roles outside of their mainstage casting, and participate in wellness sessions with external health and wellbeing practitioners. SF Ballet’s professional development programs, including Creation House, are designed to invite collaborative partnerships from across the Bay Area and around the globe.
“Through the launch of Creation House, SF Ballet will provide both company members and the renowned international choreographers who visit us the opportunities and resources they need to create bold new work with confidence,” said SF Ballet Artistic Director Tamara Rojo. “In my first year as Artistic Director, a core priority has been to expand the resources we offer to our dancers. Taking part in new work development and having access to the choreographic process is invaluable experience for dance artists, and by offering this opportunity to our company members, we will also help SF Ballet identify and invest in the innovative new voices that will further our art form.”
On Thursday, July 13, Creation House hosted its first Choreographic Exchange session led by Arielle Smith, a visiting choreographer from London who has been commissioned to develop a reimagined Carmen for SF Ballet’s 2024 Season. Smith led an informal, intimate, and inquiry-based session for SF Ballet dancers with an interest in choreography, offering perspective into the artist’s creative process and her personal journey as a maker. Creation House and other professional development activities will continue to roll out this summer and across the 2024 Season.
The launch of Creation House also marks an expansion of SF Ballet’s engagement with the local dance community, particularly through a new partnership with ODC/Dance. SF Ballet will co-present ODC’s State of Play Festival and invite ODC artists to participate in upcoming Creation House programs.
“SF Ballet’s new professional development efforts are a commitment to a 360-degree wellness approach for our dancers: not just physical wellbeing, but their mental, professional, and artistic wellbeing as well,” added Associate Artistic Director Kerry Nicholls. “What’s more, this initiative will open up SF Ballet to the vibrant artistic and professional resources that San Francisco holds. We’re excited to invite new community partners into this ongoing process of learning and development and are greatly enthusiastic to see the results it achieves in the broader dance community as well.”
Creation House consists of four components: Choreographic Residencies; The Choreographic Exchange and Physical Play Workshops; ChoreoLabs; and The SF Ballet Choreographic Program.
Choreographic Residencies are dedicated to supporting the creation of bold, new, contemporary works by established international choreographers who are commissioned by SF Ballet. These residencies can span from one to three weeks and will offer focused studio time built into the company’s schedule to explore, experiment, and develop the concept of a work before embarking on the formal creation process. Allowing a choreographer to test new concepts with an initial visit will help build confidence, ensure quality of new commissions, allow creators to learn more about the dancers ahead of casting, and allow the dancers to experience a new works process in greater depth.
Where relevant, this developmental phase will also foster dialogue with collaborators in other disciplines (e.g., music, production design, costume design), allowing space for creatives to find shared language and entry points to the work. For budding SF Ballet choreographers who are not cast in the work, the Ballet will offer observation opportunities as well.
Choreographer Aszure Barton and the creative team for Mere Mortals, a world premiere which opens SF Ballet’s 2024 Season, have been the first to hold a Choreographic Residency with the company.
Choreographic Exchange sessions make space for visiting international choreographers to lead informal discussions about their creative practice and career with SF Ballet dancers who have an interest in choreography. With multiple sessions per season, each visiting choreographer will design the format of their discussion, with the intention to lean into inquiry, the creative process, and insights into the artist’s personal journey of making. This opportunity will also be offered to budding choreographers at SF Ballet School, ODC artists, and composers at the San Francisco Conservatory of Music with a passion for dance composition.
An extension of the Choreographic Exchange sessions, Physical Play Workshops will be led by the visiting artist and continue their conversation into the studio. Providing exercises and tasks to examine alternative approaches to making dance, visiting choreographers and participating artists can play and explore new ideas together without the pressure of producing a finished result.
ChoreoLabs is a research and development platform designed for early-career choreographers both within the company and from across the discipline, grounded in an explorative and research-led practice. Scheduled for a two-week period during the company’s summer break (beginning in 2024), ChoreoLabs will offer emerging choreographers studio space, dancers (a combination of those from the company, ODC, and freelance artists), and time to trial fresh choreographic ideas, providing an opportunity to gain the experience needed for future commissions. Up to three choreographers will be selected through an application process, and resultant works may be presented to invited audiences for feedback and/or selected for further development in future seasons.
The SF Ballet School Choreographic Program is a commitment to encouraging and developing the skills of young choreographers. Starting in Year 7 and up to the Trainee level, the goal of the program is for students to have had the opportunity to choreograph and have new work made on them by their peers and professional artists by the time they finish their training at SF Ballet School. Each year, the students will be coached and mentored by School faculty and encouraged to explore both classical and contemporary choreography within small and large ensembles. Promising choreographers within SF Ballet’s company will also have the opportunity to create new work on School students, supported by structured mentoring from the Associate Artistic Director, with the possibility of having the work performed at the School’s Spring Festival.
To learn more about San Francisco Ballet’s upcoming season, visit sfballet.org