Arts

The Dancers Speak: Atlanta Ballet Premieres ‘Camino Real’ This Weekend

Atlanta Ballet's Tara Lee and Heath Gill perform as Esmeralda and Kilroy in Helen Pickett's adaptation of ''Camino Real'' this weekend.
Atlanta Ballet's Tara Lee and Heath Gill perform as Esmeralda and Kilroy in Helen Pickett's adaptation of ''Camino Real'' this weekend.
Credit Charlie McCullers / Courtesy of Atlanta Ballet

Tennessee Williams premiered his play “Camino Real” in 1953. It had a short run on Broadway with only 60 performances, and in today’s theater circuit, it is rarely revived.

Indeed, the play deals with bleak themes, and the prose lacks logic with strange appearances by literary figures like Don Quixote and Casanova. It’s a difficult mix of dark poetics, many characters and twisted plot points.

Yet choreographer Helen Pickett has developed a version for Atlanta Ballet. It will premiere on Friday at the Cobb Energy Center with additional performances on Saturday and Sunday. 

Pickett is the current resident choreographer for Atlanta Ballet and has choreographed dance performances around the country and the world. She also has an acting background, appearing in and choreographing for films, and has done collaborations on art installations.

In her recent choreography at Atlanta Ballet and Scottish Ballet, she has incorporated text into the dances. Instead of strictly ballet, it’s more “dance theater,” which will be the case with the “Camino Real” premiere. 

“Creativity breeds creativity,” Pickett says. “All too often, we got these categories, and we put people in boxes. You’re a dancer, you’re an actor, you’re a painter, you’re a sculptor. And the point is that if you open a door just a crack and say, why don’t you try this, more often than not, you are going to have some sort of success.”

Pickett also cites that in Europe, text and dance together is common practice. “It’s not a ‘wow’,” she says. “Yes, they are dancers first, but they know how to communicate in other ways.”

Along with text from Williams’ original “Camino Real” and Pickett’s choreography, the play-ballet will feature an original score by Peter Salem

Atlanta PlanIt visited a rehearsal of “Camino Real”, and asked Helen Pickett to tell us more about her process in putting together the ballet based on Tennessee Williams’ play.

Video by Jason Parker / Public Broadcasting Atlanta