Oasis: A World Premiere in the Making

Last week, Helen Pickett returned to the studio to continue developing her upcoming world premiere for Smuin Ballet. Oasis, a nearly 25-minute work in seven parts, focuses on the idea of water in its many forms.

Pickett began developing Oasis with the Company dancers in October, but the origin of the piece traces back to another project collaborator: composer Jeff Beal. Originally a jazz trumpet player, Beal has composed concert music and film scores, winning an Emmy for his work on Netflix’s House of Cards in 2015.

After meeting through Beal’s publisher, he recommended Pickett watch Last Call at the Oasis, a documentary featuring a soundtrack by Beal and released by Participant Media (Waiting for Superman, An Inconvenient Truth). While the new piece is not based on the film, Pickett was inspired to create a work based on the concept of water.

Reentering the rehearsal space after three months, Pickett noted, “During my time away, I thought a lot about patterning and what the energy of the piece could be. I realized the simplicity of nature—it’s not trying to be anything, or do anything. Everything boiled down to the energy of water—the vital power of the ocean, the constant flow of a river, or the intimate feeling of fog. In this piece, water is energy, in all the forms that it could take.”

Pickett calls collaboration “the best of creative process.” Several Oasis collaborators visited the studio this week to continue developing the project, including Beal, scenic and costume designer Emma Kingsbury, and lighting designer Nicholas Raymond. Pickett commented, “Lighting, scenic, and costumes are melding in a beautiful union of ideas for Oasis, and Jeff’s music has given me so much energy to work into the steps. It’s been instrumental to have the collaborators in the room during the creative process of Oasis. Now, they have the chance to go away and let the ideas shift, and pull together into a final outcome this May.”

Helen Pickett’s Oasis premieres in Dance Series Two on May 6, 2016 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco, with shows throughout the Bay Area May 6 – June 11, 2016. Tickets on sale now.


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