One can only imagine how difficult being trapped inside city apartments has been for members of San Francisco Ballet. Sure, you can do some pliés and tendus while holding onto a kitchen counter, but where are you supposed to leap?
In San Francisco Ballet’s new film Dance of Dreams, the company lets its dancers loose on rooftops, beside the bay, and in the gardens of the Palace of Fine Arts, one of the many iconic San Francisco landmarks that serve as settings for this film. They revel in the open space. Whether in motion or still, each arm and leg is full of potential energy. Their pointed feet, clad in sneakers, tell a story of simultaneous joy and longing.
Dance of Dreams consists of four short dances, all taking place in outdoor locations that are quintessentially San Francisco. Two of the segments are solos, and two are duets performed by dancers who had already been quarantining together. The soundtrack, and some of the shooting locales, are from Alfred Hitchcock’s Vertigo, a thriller famously shot on the streets of San Francisco, in a nod to the city’s cultural legacy. “The connection of this company to the people of San Francisco is so strong. It’s a die-hard audience,” says director Benjamin Millepied. “Dance of Dreams is a moment of dancing, a moment of reconnecting dancers to the city and the thing they love most.”
San Francisco Ballet Gives Us a Loving Picture Postcard of Their City
Some scenes seem to be at twilight, while others must have been shot at high noon. We see gray asphalt, green trees, blue sky, and one shockingly yellow pair of shoes. San Francisco’s natural surroundings are harnessed to produce an arresting range of colors and lightings.
While the movement is unmistakably ballet, it has a modern twist. Partly, this comes from the costuming. Each outfit, presumably pulled from the dancers own closets, could easily be worn down a busy city street without attracting any weird looks. The occasional flexed foot or disjointed arm movement make the choreography clearly 21st-century. Those less familiar with modern ballet who are laboring under the illusion that classical works like Swan Lake or The Nutcracker are all the ballet world has to offer a contemporary audience are in for a rude awakening.
With a run time of only six minutes, Dance of Dreams offers an easy opportunity to splice a bit of beauty into your day. San Francisco natives or die-hard Hitchcocks fans will likely get particular enjoyment from the film. For this East Coast Hitchcock novice, though, it was still easily worthwhile. It felt like a handwritten postcard from the ballet company to the world—
...they’re in San Francisco...
...they’re doing okay...
...they wish we could be there, too.
Ellen Rose Hummel
To view DANCE OF DREAMS, visit the San Francisco Ballet YouTube Channel.
Images courtesy of SF Ballet
About the Author:
Fiona Warnick is a Creative Writing major at Oberlin College. She has dabbled in ballet and theater, and speaks semi-passable French. Born and raised near Amherst, Massachusetts, she enjoys reading middle grade fiction and hiking in her spare time. She is trying to get better at Scrabble.