Your Ultimate Guide to Lyric Voices

Your Ultimate Guide to Lyric Voices

Program 05: A Blend of Dance, Music, and Lyrics

What Is It? Ballet is an art form without words. Usually. But in Lyric Voices, three choreographers—Trey McIntyre, Christopher Wheeldon, and Yuri Possokhov—work with song and text to show how blending dance, music, and lyrics can produce something spectacular.

Who’s It For? Anyone who loves memoirs, is too attached to their phone, or has a soft spot for Greek mythology.


San Francisco Ballet in McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem //© Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? Standing six feet six inches tall, choreographer Trey McIntyre has a rare perspective on the world. But it’s one he may have shared with his also-very-tall grandfather. In Your Flesh Shall Be A Great Poem, McIntyre imagines what it might be like to see through his grandfather’s eyes. The ballet imagines a portal into his grandfather’s life. Unexpectedly moving, this dance merges quirky, playful gestures with moments of stillness and introspection.

What Am I Hearing? Tracks from singer-songwriter Chris Garneau’s album El Radio. McIntyre is known for working with pop music, including The Shins, Amy Winehouse, and Peter, Paul, and Mary.

What Should I Look For? Look for the piece’s episodic structure. What might these individual encounters represent? And look for the central figure whose solos open and close the work, lending it an emotional through-line.


San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Bound To // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? When’s the last time you rode Caltrain and looked out the window rather than scrolling Instagram? Or left your phone at home and totally unplugged for the day? Bound To© by Christopher Wheeldon starts with these questions. It explores the loneliness and disconnection that our constant state of digital engagement can cause. This is tech-influenced ballet for a tech-obsessed city.

What Am I Hearing? A collection of works by singer-songwriter Keaton Henson. The ballet’s score blends Henson’s classical music with one of his final vocal racks.

What Should I Look For? Look for the way dancing with cellphones changes the dancers’ movements. Ballet is usually about connection, either between the dancers on stage or the dancers and their audience. But here, they are inwardly oriented. They fixate on technology in ways that change the line of their heads and necks. And notice how when the dancers’ movements become more expansive when they lose their phones.

“…two united in a single soul…”

San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Possokhov’s “. . . two united in a single soul . . .” // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? A world premiere by SF Ballet choreographer-in-residence Yuri Possokhov based on the myth of Narcissus. Possokhov is the choreographer of dramatic, sensual, and evocative ballets like The Rite of Spring, Raku, and Swimmer. Here, he blends Greek myth, Baroque music, and classical ballet to create a visual spectacle worthy of its inspiration. If you loved the excitement of last year’s Unbound festival, you won’t want to miss this new work.

What Am I Hearing? A variety of George Frederic Handel arias as arranged by Russian composer Daria Novo. The selected arias were written for castrati—men who were castrated young to preserve their high voices—and now sung by countertenors. You’ll see a countertenor onstage with the dancers, adding another dimension to this elaborate work.

What Should I Look For? Notice the mirror imagery that appears throughout the ballet. The myth of Narcissus is about a man who falls in love with his own reflection in a lake. Unable to tear himself away, is transformed into a flower. Notice too the way Possokhov pulls many different kinds of production elements together. He’s known for working with many different art forms and this ballet is no exception.

Header image: SF Ballet in Wheeldon’s Bound To© // © Erik Tomasson