Dance in Pop Culture

Boston Ballet Joins Twenty One Pilots and Tame Impala at Boston Calling Music Fest

Courtesy Boston Calling

Twenty One Pilots, Janelle Monáe, Tame Impala, Boston Ballet.

One of these things is not like the others.


This Memorial Day weekend, Boston's hometown ballet company is joining a lineup of major music stars for Boston Calling, a festival dubbed by some as an "East Coast Coachella." It's the first time in Boston Calling's 10-year run that dance will be featured—and possibly the first time ballet has ever been given major stage time at such a high profile music festival.

The company with take both the main stage and the more intimate, covered Arena Stage in three works: an excerpt from William Forsythe's Playlist EP, set to R&B artist Khalid's "Location"; a new duet by former principal Yury Yanowsky; and, perhaps most unexpectedly, a new work by corps member Sage Humphries, who's choreographing to music by her brother Michael Humphries, the artist behind indie band Future Self.

Sage Humphries leads a rehearsal at the Boston Ballet studios, demonstrating one hand up

Sage Humphries (center) is choreographing on principals Kathleen Breen Combes and John Lam, and soloists Maria Baranova and Roddy Doble.

Brooke Trisolini, Courtesy Boston Ballet

As a 21-year-old music festival lover, Humphries calls the opportunity "overwhelming, in the best way." She choreographed her first piece just last fall for Boston Ballet's ChoreograpHER Initiative. When she was out injured earlier this year, artistic director Mikko Nissinen asked if she'd be interested in putting her unexpected free time to use by creating something for the festival. She jumped at the chance.

Her new work, White, casts each dancer as an iconic character from rock-and-roll history. "If you picture a 16-year-old who can't stop listening to their favorite record, that's the vibe I'm going for," she says. "Someone is listening to music and it comes to life—the stories they hear in the song are personified."

With such a massive venue, the pressure is on. But Humphries is ready for it.

"The festival's lineup is honestly my musical heaven. The fact that we're going to be backstage with these bands and performers we love, performing for thousands of people—it's an amazing opening for the future of ballet."

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