Work in development: George/Michael (working title)

A dance theater work in development by Michael Sakamoto and George de la Peña

This project is seeking commissioning and presenting partners for the 2019-2021 seasons.

George_Michael info sheet

“George/Michael” (working title) explores the embodied legacies of ballet and butoh dance in the real and imagined lives of its lead performers, George de la Peña and Michael Sakamoto. Conceived as a “subjective documentary” blending memoir, history, and fiction, this dance theater project traces connections between wildly diverse inspirations, such as ballet legend Vaslav Nijinsky (portrayed by de la Peña in the Hollywood film, Nijinsky), butoh creator Hijikata Tatsumi, exotic oriental fantasies in modern ballet, and fetishism around French literature and the body in early butoh. Sakamoto and de la Peña also reflect on paradoxes within their contemporary dance identities: what it means to be a male artist in the era of #metoo and queer politics, and maintain dance’s potential to enliven and transform.


Praise for past works:

For Michael Sakamoto –
“Compelling…Sakamoto the choreographer approaches the unsparing power of perhaps the most pitiless Rite (of Spring) thus far created.” – Lewis Segal, Los Angeles Times
“Unquestionably compelling…. Sakamoto speaks entire passages with a single movement, subtly striking deep chords.” – LA Weekly
“Shades of Pina Bausch crossed with Woody Allen.” – Donna Perlmutter, Los Angeles Times

For George de la Peña –
“Oozing across boundaries with all the deliberate conviction of the collective unconscious.” – Newsday
“An unforgettable performance…full of fire and comic detail…performed with style and panache.” – Jennnifer Dunning, New York Times



Drama League Award, Outstanding Featured Actor in a Musical (Chronicle of a Death, Foretold)
Drama Desk Award nomination (The Red Shoes)
Lucille Lortel Award nomination for Outstanding Choreographer (Midsummer Night’s Dream)

George de la Peña is a multi-disciplinary performer-director- choreographer-researcher who continues to seek new knowledge through the arts and sciences. He investigates how music, visual, and theater arts inform movement, cognition and emotion and provoke an audience to critically examine the human condition. In addition, he is dedicated to accurate documentary production in order to record and analyze current trends in the field of dance performance/practice and to raise questions regarding cognitive development, focus, and artistry. This area of research includes documentation, analysis, and synthesis.

Hailed by dance critic Arlene Croce as one of “the finest Petrushkas I’ve seen,” George began his career with American Ballet Theatre after graduating from George Balanchine’s School of American Ballet. He has worked with many choreographers including George Balanchine, Mikhail Baryshnikov, Martha Clarke, Alonzo King, Kenneth MacMillan, Mark Morris, Rudolf Nureyev, Dwight Rhoden, Jerome Robbins, Antony Tudor, Twyla Tharp,Glen Tetley, Doug Varone, Dan Wagoner, and many others.

In 1978 he was chosen to portray Vaslav Nijinsky in the Paramount Pictures/Herbert Ross film, Nijinsky. He followed that with numerous other projects for film and television as an actor where he worked with distinguished artists such as Alan Bates, Blake Edwards, Marsha Norman, Richard Levinson, Stanley Donen, John Turturro, Kathy Bates, Elizabeth McGovern, and most recently, Patrick Swayze.

George is a member of the Lincoln Center Theater Director’s Laboratory.


Projected touring personnel: 4-5 (2 dancer-actors, 1 musician and/or media artist, 1 technical director)
Projected scale: small to medium-large stages (200-700 seats)
Residency activities: artist talks, master classes (butoh funk, ballet, devised performance), lecture (Choreographing the intercultural body)

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