Salome, the biblical girl/femme fatale who danced for her stepfather, Tetrarch Herod, and as a reward, received the head of John the Baptist on a platter, has inspired legions of creators — in literature (Flaubert), theater (Oscar Wilde), cinema (at least 25 versions), art (Caravaggio, Gustave Moreau), and opera (Massenet, Richard Strauss q.v.*). Given the famous “Dance of the Seven Veils,” invented by Oscar Wilde in his 1891 stage play Salome: A Tragedy in One Act, it is amazing that ballet hasn’t jumped on this heroine. I didn’t find much online. A Salome ballet by Danish choreographer Fleming Flindt, in 1978, used the biblical story, as did Demis Volpi last year at the Stuttgart Ballet. Not so Portuguese choreographer Arthur Pita, whose new world première for San Francisco Ballet asks the question, what these mythical people, Herod, his uncouth wife Herodias, dancing girl Salome and their victim, prophet John, would be doing nowadays.
Pita grew up in South Africa, worked in Britain, and is brand-new to the United States. Some of his background is disco dancing. He is a versatile all-round theater and dance maker, much like his partner, Matthew Bourne, the British choreographer who created the famous all-male Swan Lake. Pita made a splash in 2011 with a Kafka ballet, Metamorphosis, at the Royal Ballet, and has expended his mixed-genre themes with parts of Brecht’s Three Penny Opera. “We talk about work a lot,” Pita told The Guardian about his relationship with Bourne, “because we’re both obsessed, but it’s never competitive, our styles are so different… If you’re talking about influences, Matt goes back to the MGM musical and I’m more David Lynch.”
To read Kim Chernin’s brilliant analysis of Salome’s age, click here.