Ballet Stars

The Standouts of 2018: Lonnie Weeks in Christopher Wheeldon's "Bound To" at San Francisco Ballet's Unbound Festival

Weeks, a newly promoted SFB soloist, in Christopher Wheeldon's Bound To. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

If a dancer is very lucky, and very prepared, one performance can transform their career. Lonnie Weeks was that dancer on the opening night of San Francisco Ballet's Unbound Festival in April. Chosen by Christopher Wheeldon for the emotionally wrenching final solo in Bound To, Weeks, 27, went onstage as a superb but largely unsung company artist. When the curtain came down 30 minutes later, he was, rightfully, a star.


Weeks in "Bound To." Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

Weeks, who was promoted to soloist just before the festival, boasts the classical refinement and the expressive freedom of a modernist. That combination seemed tailor-made for Wheeldon's contemporary ballet about the alienation of technology, so while Bound To featured principals like Dores André, Yuan Yuan Tan and Angelo Greco, Weeks got the last word. In that closing solo, he portrayed a person whose loneliness has brought him to the brink of self-destruction. Weeks held nothing back, laying out his body in breathtaking extensions, leaps and floor work, and dancing with a heartrending musicality that bared his soul, for all to see.

The Conversation
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Yos Clark, of Africa's Ivory Coast. Courtesy Ballet Rising.

From his home in Abidjan, Ivory Coast, an eight-year-old boy named Yos Clark discovered ballet from the film Un, Dos, Tres, and began teaching himself to dance through videos. A teacher in France saw photos of Yos dancing online, and taught him over Skype because the studio in Abidjan was too long of a commute for him to train there on a regular basis. Apparently, the lessons paid off; last year, Yos received a scholarship to continue his training in Warrington, England.

Dancers like Clark are what propel former Dutch National Ballet principal Casey Herd recently; since leaving the company three years ago, Herd has become determined to shed light on the lesser-known stories of dancers making it around the world. Now, he and his friend and colleague Chris Weisler are creating a documentary project called Ballet Rising. Together they have been transversing the globe, searching for people embracing ballet. (Since the series is still in development, a premiere date is TBA.) Between stops, Pointe touched base with Herd over the phone to learn about the project, where his travels have taken him so far, and what his hopes are for the future of global ballet.

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If you're making your weekend plans, you may want to clear your calendar for Sunday and check your local movie listings. On May 19, Fathom Events, in partnership with Pathé Live and By Experience, is broadcasting the Bolshoi Ballet's performance of Carmen Suite and Petrushka throughout cinemas nationwide. The program will be captured live the same day from Moscow, and feature some of the Bolshoi's biggest stars.

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