Born in San Diego, dancer, actress, choreographer, teacher, and writer Helen Pickett began her dance studies at the San Francisco Ballet School and went on to dance with the esteemed Ballet Frankfurt under the directorship of William Forsythe. As an actress she also worked with Elizabeth Le Compte’s The Wooster Group for 6 yrs in the OBIE award-winning House/Lights and North Atlantic and then guested with the Royal Ballet of Flanders in Forsythe’s ballet Impressing the Czar.
Commissioned in 2005 by the Boston Ballet to choreograph the new ballet, Etesian, Pickett began a long trajectory creating work for a number of notable companies, including Washington Ballet, the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet, Sacramento Ballet, Louisville Ballet, Ballet X, and more. In 2006 she received a grant from the New York Choreographic Institute and in 2007 she was named “one of 25 to watch” by Dance Magazine. Continuing to make new choreography for companies such as the Royal Ballet of Flanders, Ballet West, Atlanta Ballet, and Dance Theatre of Harlem, she was one of the first choreographers to receive Jerome Robbins Foundation’s New Essential Works Grant, which enabled her to further explore her talent and vision.
Collaboration is a huge part of Pickett’s modus operandi as an artist. Working with installation artists and filmmakers, she became a founding member of The Rufus Corporation with filmmaker Eve Sussman, playing the Queen in her 80 Seconds at Alcazar as well as acting in the feature length film The Rape of the Sabine Women, and more.
Pickett’s choreography has the loose limbed and freeing elements so signature of Forsythe’s style. Her movements are kinetic and open, with jumps and turns that move across the stage as legs and arms extend through space. There is a kind of balletic sexuality to her work in addition to a tenderness, which we see in Petal for example, a piece she made for the Aspen Santa Fe Ballet in 2011.
Ever the prolific artist, Pickett received a Master of Fine Arts in Dance from Hollins University in 2011. In addition to creating ballets, she also teaches improvisation classes based on Forsythe’s technique, and holds workshops throughout the United States and Europe that she calls “The Expansive Artist” to help open up the boundaries and horizons of creativity.