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The Crucible Rehearsals © Andy Ross 6 Photo: Andy Ross

Get to know... Helen Pickett

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‘Telling Arthur Miller’s play through movement has given me the chance to highlight the incendiary moments that are only spoken about in the play.’

This year we open the International Festival's dance programme with the world premiere of Scottish Ballet’s The Crucible, choreographed by Helen Pickett. Helen is one of the most in-demand choreographers working today – whom critics have called ‘stunningly original’, ‘extraordinarily imaginative’ and ‘visually and aurally dynamic’.

Based in Brooklyn, Helen is a former dancer who spent over a decade performing with William Forsythe’s Ballett Frankfurt before developing her own choreographic voice. Having created over 35 ballets in the US and Europe, The Crucible is the second time her work will be presented by the International Festival, following the premiere of The Room as part of Scottish Ballet's Dance Odysseys in 2013.

The Crucible is based on the classic American play by Arthur Miller. An allegorical comment on the McCarthy hearings of the 1950s, Miller’s chilling account of the 1692 Salem witch trials recalls a community destroyed by fear, hostility and hysteria.

This is the first major dance adaptation of Miller’s work, but what was it that appealed to Helen as choreographer? We spoke to her about creating this exciting new production.

Helen Pickett: Telling Arthur Miller’s play through movement has given me the chance to highlight the incendiary moments that are only spoken about in the play. The precise actions that propel and incite the plays momentum to the eventual outcome. For example, the affair between Abigail and John, and then Liz catching them, and the subsequent throwing out of Abigail of their house, is the moment that we can illustrate so beautifully in an entire scene. This gives Abigail the momentum to hate Liz.

Arthur Miller has created themes that are timeless. He’s chosen the 1600s to highlight a moment in history full of fear, tyranny and finger pointing. Superstition and the fear of others, the fear of difference. The 1950s, when he wrote it, is a perfect example, it was the red scare in America; the finger pointing, people’s lives being destroyed. It is no different in today’s political and socio-economic environment.

The Crucible | Photo: Andy Ross
Helen Pickett in rehearsal | Photo: Andy Ross

HP: Recurrent themes - the misuse of power, the fear mongering, the tyrannical ideas about what power should be, when we know what good power can be. We just had an example of that, and then the exact reversal. It seems to be something that’s threading throughout our world’s politics. 

The other side of that, and this is also the beauty of Arthur Miller’s tale, are the positive aspects that keep shining through: ethical courage, the belief in doing good, love, generosity of spirit, and helping your neighbours.


Scottish Ballet's production of The Crucible comes to the International Festival on 3-5 August 2019. Watch the trailer above.

The Crucible | Photo: Nicola Selby

Book tickets for The Crucible

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