Your Ultimate Guide to UNBOUND B

What is it? A chance to see three very different choreographers—American Myles Thatcher and the European-based Cathy Marston and David Dawson—grapple with the same question: what does it mean to break boundaries in ballet?

Who’s it for? People interested in activism, literature, or physical virtuosity.


San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Myles Thatcher's Otherness // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? An abstract Romeo-and-Juliet story set in a pink-and-blue Wes Anderson-inspired landscape that explores questions of identity and prejudice. SF Ballet’s very own Myles Thatcher returns to the Opera House stage with his first narrative ballet. Thatcher’s new ballet takes topics from the headlines—gender, discrimination, bullying—and grounds them in the bodies of SF Ballet’s dancers, offering a fresh way for ballet to explore social issues in movement.

What am I hearing? John Adams’ Absolute Jest, which was composed for San Francisco Symphony’s 100th anniversary in 2012. Inspired by Beethoven, this score is for string quartet and orchestra.

What should I look for? The Protagonist and his or her partner. Created on Soloists Lauren Strongin and Max Cauthorn, the role of the Protagonist is the heart of the ballet. Depending on the performance you see, you’ll notice different nuances in the way each interprets the role.


San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Marston's Snowblind // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? British choreographer Cathy Marston’s unique blend of literature, movement, and emotion. Known in Europe for her narrative ballets inspired by literature, Marston decided to use an American story as the starting point for this ballet: Edith Wharton’s short story Ethan Frome. For those of us who never read Ethan Frome in high school English here’s a quick synopsis: Married man in New England falls in love with his hypochondriac wife’s cousin—who also happens to be his maid.

What am I hearing? A mix of music from Amy Beach, Arthur Foote, and Arvo Pärt arranged by composer Phillip Feeney. Beach and Foote were both part of the “Boston Six,” a group of composers working in the late 19th and early 20th centuries in New England. Working at the same time as Edith Wharton, these composers were key to the development of American classical music.

What should I look for? Look for the way that the main characters’ movement is driven by their emotions—Marston starts her process more like a theatrical director, letting the character’s thoughts dictate the movement language. And watch the corps de ballet in this work; they alternately represent the cold and snow of New England and the central characters’ emotions.


San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Myles Thatcher's Otherness // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? An example of physically emotional virtuosity by UK dancemaker David Dawson. Anima Animus is ballet pushed to every extreme; technique stretched to its outer limit. If you want to see the extremes of human movement—don’t miss this ballet.

What am I hearing? Ezio Bosso’s Violin Concerto No. 1 “Esoconcerto.” Bosso is also the composer for Christopher Wheeldon’s 2008 New Works Festival ballet, Within the Golden Hour, and in this work, his score creates a sense of driving motion matched by the dancing.

What should I look for? The second movement and its virtuosic play between the two principal women and the four men. And for the way that Dawson pushes ballet technique to its extremes. Rarely is a dancer truly upright—everything is leaning, at an angle, off-balance, giving the work a feeling of modernity and urgency.

Listen to the Unbound B Spotify Playlist

From John Adams to the Boston Six to Ezzio Bosso, this program spans time periods and styles, with something for everyone.