Choreographer, Helen Pickett, native of San Diego, CA, has created over 60 ballets in the U.S., U.K. and Europe. In 2020/21, Helen choreographed 12 dances for film, including The Air Before Me, which won the Audience Choice Award for Screen Dance International Festival, and Hurley Burley, which was nominated for an Emmy Award. The Crucible, her full length for Scottish Ballet, premiering at Edinburgh International Festival in 2019, won two awards, UK Theatre Critics Award and the Herald Angel Award, and will embark on a tour to the US in 2023. The Guardian newspaper called it, “…a riveting gift of a show.” While resident choreographer for Atlanta Ballet, 2012 – 2017, she was named Best Choreographer in 2014, for The Exiled. And in 2015, Helen won Best Choreographer and Best Dance Production for her full length, Camino Real. Critic, Manning Harris wrote that Camino Real would “become a legend in the dance world.”
Helen’s upcoming commissions include West Australian Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, and two long form narratives for The National Ballet of Canada and The Dutch National Ballet. In 2021, Helen’s commissions included, American Ballet Theatre, Boston Ballet, Pittsburgh Ballet Theatre, Kansas City Ballet and Cincinnati Ballet. From 2005-2020, Helen 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), Philadelphia 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.
Between June 2020 and January 2021, Helen choreographed 12 dance films, with nearly every one of the films choreographed and rehearsed on Zoom. Home Studies, a five-film series, was later translated to the stage for a premiere at Jacob’s Pillow in August 2021. Three films from her series, The Shakespeare Cycle, were featured on PBS. The film, The Air Before Me, created with director, Shaun Clarke, made four Official Selection lists around the world and won the Audience Choice Award for Screen Dance International Festival. For the films, Helen worked with dancers from Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, Boston Ballet, Charlotte Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Dance Theatre of Harlem, Kansas City Ballet, Les Grands Ballet Canadians de Montreal and Royal Swedish Ballet. 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 mid 2020, Helen created a YouTube talk show. The intimate one-on-one conversations would become Creative Vitality Jam Sessions, with the first interview produced on May 20th. Helen created CVJS to not only highlight extraordinary dance and theater artists but also to support and build an inclusive, equitable dance community. 83 sessions.
In April 2021, Helen founded the Female Choreographer’s Big Round Table, a zoom meeting place for female choreographers to build community and forge avenues for more equitable work environments. To date, 150 female choreographers have joined the Roundtable!
Helen danced with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt, 1987-1998. She was involved in 20 original productions in her time with Ballet Frankfurt. During her last season with Ballet Frankfurt, Helen simultaneously performed with The Wooster Group, director, Elizabeth Le Compte, in the OBIE award winning House/Lights and North Atlantic. From 2005-2012, Helen 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, Helen performed Agnes with Dresden Semper Oper Ballet.
Helen collaborated, as an actress and choreographer, with the installation video artists and filmmakers: Eve Sussman, Toni Dove and Laurie Simmons. Helen, 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. Helen choreographed the dance sequences, for Laurie Simmons’, The Music of Regret, which premiered at Museum of Modern Art in New York.
In 2021, Helen was the co-director, along with Milton Meyers, of the Jacob’s Pillow Contemporary Summer Dance School Program. She created a choreographic intensive for college age choreographers entitled, Choreographic Essentials, which she teaches in universities around the country. 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, Helen 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 2011, Helen 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.
Helen received a Fellowship Initiative Grant from New York Choreographic Institute, 2006. Dance Magazine named Helen one of 25 to Watch, 2007. Jacob’s Pillow awarded her a Choreographic Residency, 2008. Helen was one of the first choreographers to receive the Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works Grant. In 2016, Helen received an Honorary Doctorate from University of North Carolina School of the Arts, Dean, Susan Jaffe.