The dancer Joseph Walsh descends a flight of stairs in the brutalist San Francisco Art Institute to open “Dance of Dreams”, a short film by Benjamin Millepied. The score from Alfred Hitchcock’s “Vertigo” swells as Walsh looks out over the city and a short solo by New York City Ballet-based choreographer Justin Peck begins.
Filmed near the Golden Gate Bridge and the Palace of Fine Arts, the misty and windswept city is a standout figure in the six-minute film that premiered on the San Francisco Ballet’s social platforms on Thursday.
It consists of a cast of lead dancers and soloists from the San Francisco Ballet and choreography by Peck, the founding artist of the Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Dwight Rhoden, member of the LA Dance Project Company, Janie Taylor, and the artistic associate of the Royal Ballet, Christopher Wheeldon .
The artistic director and chief choreographer of the San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson, commissioned Millepied, founder and artistic director of the LA Dance Project, to create the work. Millepied donated their time to the project together with the dancers and choreographers.
Millepied said he was inspired by his love for the 1958 San Francisco-based thriller “Vertigo”. The idea wasn’t to replicate the film, he said. “It’s just about these dancers expressing themselves in their city and at this moment. The dancing is honest because they have been in their apartments for months. “
“Dance of Dreams” was shot in June and contains two solos and two pas de deux. (The pas de deux were performed by dancers who found shelter together.) The music includes more than 150 tracks remotely recorded by more than 60 musicians from the San Francisco Ballet Orchestra.
The wind lashes through the dancer Frances Chung’s clothes as she begins her solo on the edge of a rocky cliff overlooking the city at Cavallo Point. Chung said the dancing in the film was her first time since the quarantine began.
She learned Taylor’s choreography through FaceTime. The two exchanged videos, with Chung practicing at home and later in the field.
Being part of the project is a nice change from the routine of the past few months, she said. Although the windy weather wasn’t ideal – which made it difficult for the camera crew to take pictures – and the cliff was much smaller than planned: “I haven’t danced or played or done anything for movies for so long that honestly it wasn’t even on it depends on how the elements were, ”she said.
Frances Chung in Millepied’s Dance of Dreams
(San Francisco Ballet)
Millepied, who will direct and choreograph the upcoming feature film “Carmen”, shot the short film from LA. He explored virtually places and watched the playback of cameramen from home on Zoom while filming.
“I was live on the set,” said Millepied. “I’ve always seen what the camera is doing. And I would communicate with the operator between shots. “
Although he wasn’t physically there with the dancers and crew, “it was more about getting different angles. … we wanted to move the camera and just get something that felt intimate. “
While she was dancing, Chung wanted to express her love for San Francisco and its people during this difficult time.
“The city has been struggling to say the least, and it’s just a message of hope, or hopefully things will go back to what they once were and we’ll be on the stage again.”