Before Christmas 2020, an exhibition called The Colombes transferred to the nave of the National Cathedral. Created by an artist Michael Pandry, the installation featured nearly 2,000 origami pigeons hanging from a ceiling 100 feet high. Although the cathedral has not yet opened to the public, the exhibition was a hope.
For months, Washington ballet dancers performed “Unbound” under these pigeons suspended in flight. Dance choreographer Thomas the Crosstells City newspaper that he drew inspiration directly from origami, his dance tells the story of a bird finally released from a cage.
Unbound will perform at CityCenterDC every night from June 3 to 4 as part of the Washington Ballet Dance For All. This is the third interview from three Questions and answers local dancers free performances ahead. The interview was edited for length and clarity.
WCP: According to your biography, you graduated from dance school in 2002. How long have you been dancing ballet and how did ballet come to Washington?
Thomas the Cross: I have been dancing ballet for over 20 years. I sent the cassette to audition for the Washington Ballet – yes, it was VHS! – and I was taken away.
WCP: Choreographers start with music, a creative concept, even an old story or feeling. How did you start “Unbound?”
TK: Each project requires a slightly different order of preparation. “Unbound” began with a creative concept, actually a work of art called The Colombeswhich means pigeons. [It] was established in the National Cathedral and [TWB] was commissioned to create around this specific site. Then we worked with a friend of TWB Blake Neely, which is a Grammy Award-winning Hollywood composer to create original music that fits. Finally, with all these inspirations, we added choreography.
WCP: How was it to take on the role of choreographer?
TK: It demeans and rewards.
WCP: Can you describe a certain moment in the choreographic process when everything fell into place? Or a moment you are especially proud of?
TK: I’m always happy to come up with some things I’ve never seen and [that] seems unusual. I really like the beginning of “Unbound”.
WCP: How did you choose the music for this piece?
TK: Luckily, Blake and I have a pretty good relationship, so most of my musical worries are usually taken over by him.
WCP: Tell us about the costumes.
TK: The concept of this work is very simple. Origami pigeons were depicted in the picture, so we needed something white and simple.
WCP: What do you hope viewers will pick up on seeing your work?
TK: This work was first created during the pandemic, and it debuted in May 2021 as the first indoor event to be allowed to perform in DC. This combined with the illustration of pigeons really influenced the work. A ballet about a pigeon that stays in a cage for quite a long time and finally the cage opens. She could try her wings and feel the freedom we so long for. All the dancers felt the same during the pandemic, so it also has some metaphorical meaning.
Dance For All performances at CityCenterDC will begin at 6pm on June 3 and 4 at CityCenterDC. washingtonballet.org. Free.