Ballet for Life Headlines 2019 SF Dance Film Festival

Claudia Bauer on October 27, 2019
Stina Quagebeur and Tamara Rojo in Akram Khan’s Giselle | Credit: Dave Morgan

Ballets set to rock ’n’ roll music are so common that it’s hard to recall the pioneering impact that the rock band Queen had on ballet. In 1979, frontman Freddie Mercury donned slippers and danced with the Royal Ballet, and the Royal’s superstar Wayne Eagling performed in the 1984 video for “I Want to Break Free.” And in 1997, Queen joined with choreographer Maurice Béjart and fashion designer Gianni Versace to create Ballet for Life, which premiered at the Théâtre de Chaillot in Paris.

Mercury and Béjart leading dancer Jorge Donn had died of AIDS by then, but they’re celebrated in the documentary Queen + Béjart: Ballet for Life, which anchors the opening night of the 10th annual San Francisco Dance Film Festival on Saturday, Nov. 2. The evening-long event includes a moderated discussion with director Lynne Wake, editor Simon Upton, and dancer Erik Wagner, plus cocktails and lots of mingling.

The eight-day festival offers premieres, international features, short films, and live performances. One dazzling highlight is an evening with Lil’ Buck, a world-renowned jookin’ street dancer who has collaborated with cellist Yo-Yo Ma. At a screening of Lil’ Buck: Real Swan, Buck will receive the inaugural Embodiment Award for artistic excellence (Nov. 9).

This year’s notable live captures include Akram Khan’s award-winning Giselle for English National Ballet (Nov. 3), the Joffrey Ballet/Lyric Opera of Chicago production of Orphée et Eurydice (Nov. 5), and Crystal Pite and Jonathon Young’s heartrending Betroffenheit (Nov. 9). Closing night is another marquee social event: head to Brava Theater Center for cocktails, conversation, juried awards, and local dance films (Nov. 10). Information and tickets are available at