the chrysalis project

chrysalis (n.): within the chrysalis, the caterpillar undergoes a remarkable transformation, or ‘metamorphosis’, to transform into the butterfly that will emerge.

a film series by Hannah Schneider in collaboration with Oxford Alternative Orchestra and the Center for Ballet and the Arts at New York University.

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Series of films

November 2020

CHRYSALIS is a series of five videos exploring the idea that a particular kind of metamorphosis, transformation, and hope is only possible in a place of darkness. Each piece is a fusion of the media of dance, film, and classical music, featuring a piece of new choreography set to new compositions recorded by the Oxford Alternative Orchestra (OAO).


The project features the musicians of OAO in the UK, and five award-winning choreographers in different locations around the world: Burkina Faso, Sweden, the US, Russia, New Zealand. Each choreographer explores unique interpretations of hope that have been illuminated, and even enhanced, by the darkness of the global pandemic we are all still experiencing. 


CHRYSALIS also features three new compositions from award-winning composers, commissioned for this project, as well as arrangements of two renowned classical pieces. 


The films will be edited together with footage of the orchestra to create a cohesive piece of visual art designed for the screen which offers an insight into how orchestral and dance performance can be adapted in a time of social distancing.

About the choreographers

Aguibou Bougobali Sanou is a dancer, choreographer, musician, and storyteller. In 2016, he was a semi-finalist on “Africa’s Got Talent.”  He has created work with support from the Institut Francais de Paris, Facets Choreographer residency in India, and the U.S. State Department Fulbright Scholarship. Born in Burkina Faso and raised in Burkina Faso and Mali, Sanou’s work is a mix of West African Mandingo traditional dances, Brazilian capoeira, and theater expressions drawn from his experiences with European stage directors. He designed an African dance curriculum at Naugatuck Valley Community College 2018-2019 and created a dance program at the civil prison of Bobo-Dioulasso (Burkina Faso). He is currently an MFA student at UArts Philadelphia.

Ksenia Zvereva is a multi-award winning choreographer. Her pieces have been performed by the Mariinsky Ballet, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Swedish Ballet and the Astana Opera among others, and she has participated in workshops and festivals in the UK, Canada, Russia, the Czech Republic, Italy and Sweden. Several works, presented at the Creative Workshop of Young Choreographers at the Mariinsky Theatre, are now part of the Mariinsky Ballet’s repertoire. Participant of the renowned International ballet festival Benois de la Danse 2018 at the Bolshoi Theatre. Ksenia has been collaborating with a number of famous art institutions as the State Hermitage Museum and Hermitage Theatre in Saint Petersburg and with Festival O/Modernt in Sweden, among others. Recently, she choreographed opening pieces for the Taras Schevchenko National Prize of Ukraine and the 6th International Ballet Festival Grand Prix Kyiv, both presented at the stage of the National Opera of Ukraine. One of her latest works was a new video project in collaboration with a Canadian experimental violinist and the leading soloist of the Bolshoi Ballet.

Xander Parish OBE is a multi-award winning British dancer and choreographer who joined the Mariinsky Ballet in 2010, where he was promoted to Principal Dancer in 2017. He has danced roles such as Prince Siegfried in Swan Lake, Romeo in Romeo and Juliet, and the Nutcracker Prince, and has toured extensively with the Mariinsky Ballet, including performances in Canada, China, Latvia, Spain, Mexico, the UAE, the USA, and the UK. He has won the Taglioni Award for Best Young Male Dancer in 2014, and Britain’s National Dance Award for Outstanding Male Performance in 2015. He was awarded an OBE in 2019 for services to dance and to cultural relations between Britain and Russia.

Sarah Foster-Sproull is a Choreographer in Residence at The Royal New Zealand Ballet, Fellow at the Centre for Ballet and The Arts at New York University and Session Choreographer for the New York Choreographic Institute affiliated with the New York City Ballet. Sarah has been the Creative New Zealand Choreographic Fellow and is currently a Senior Lecturer in Dance Studies at the University of Auckland Dance Studies. Sarah is the Artistic Director and choreographer of Auckland-based dance company Foster Group and was the 2019 Director of Choreography at New Zealand’s largest performance event The World of Wearable Art. She is a distinguished graduate of the New Zealand School of Dance and holds a Master in Dance Studies from the University of Auckland - Dance Studies.

Jerome Robbins awardee Stefanie Batten Bland, is an interdisciplinary global artist who interrogates contemporary and historical culture in dance-theatre and film. Based in New York City, she founded Company SBB in France in 2008 and is a 2020 Baryshnikov Arts Center and Duke Performances commissioned artist. 

COVID credits: Online - EU Day for the European Union at the United Nations, distanced films for Brooklyn Botanic Gardens, ABT at Duke, and Works & Process at the Guggenheim.

Recent Live credits: Featured artist FIAF Crossing The Line Festival, Gina Gibney Dance Company, Directorial Team “Life & Trust” Emursive Productions, Movement Director “Eve’s Song” Public Theater, Choreographer for American Ballet Theatre’s inaugural Women's Movement Initiative, SBB is an assistant professor at Montclair State University for Theatre & Dance, received her MFA in interdisciplinary arts from Goddard College and lives in SoHo with her family, where she grew up as the daughter of artists.

About the composers

Aiyana Braun is a composer, sound artist, and pianist whose work has been performed by the New York Philharmonic, Berkeley Symphony and Curtis Symphony Orchestra, among others. At the age of fifteen, her first orchestra composition premiered at the New York Philharmonic; another work, commissioned by Maya Angelou and Norman Lear, was performed at the Kimmel Center’s Verizon Hall. She has won awards from the BMI Foundation and American Composers Forum, as well as being featured on NPR’s From the Top and several episodes of PBS/WHYY’s On Stage at Curtis. She is a Fellow at the Center for the Ballet and the Arts in 2021, where she will be working on interdisciplinary collaborations between musicians, choreographers, and dancers. 

Kristina Arakelyan is an award-winning composer and pianist who is currently pursuing her doctorate at King’s College London, having studied at the Royal Academy of Music and the University of Oxford. She won first prize in the BBC Proms Inspire Young Composers’ Competition and the Overall Cup in the EPTA Composition Competition in 2010, the first prize in the NCEM composers’ competition in 2016, and the Royal Northern Sinfonia’s composers’ competition in 2019. Her work has been played on BBC Radio 3, and in prestigious locations such as London’s Royal Albert Hall, Wigmore Hall, Cambridge’s Caius College, and concert halls in Mexico, Spain, Belgium, Croatia, and Armenia. 

Erika Vega is an award-winning composer currently studying a PhD at the University of Oxford. She has received prizes from the Eighth Annual Jurgenson Competition for Young Composers at the Moscow Tchaikovsky Conservatory, the TACTUS 2017 Young Composers Forum in Belgium, the Los Angeles Philharmonic’s 2017 National Composers Intensive and The Henfrey Prize for Composition 2019 at the University of Oxford, among others. She completed an artistic residency at Royaumont (2018-2019), writing music for dance, a collaborative relationship between composer and choreographer. 

About the Oxford Alternative Orchestra

OAO’s two goals render it distinct among the city’s orchestras: first, it aims to break classical music out of the concert hall and forge a vibrant dialogue with the city of Oxford, and second, it guides intriguing, under-represented classical forms back into the concert hall. Since its formation in 2016, OAO has performed in refugee detention centres, homeless shelters, hospitals, and has also performed free concerts in traditional venues to encourage accessibility. Profits from concerts are donated to charity.


In addition to standard repertoire, OAO focuses on bringing to life contemporary repertoire of edgy composers such as Einojuani Rautavaara, Steve Reich, Sofia Gubaidulina, and Rodion Shchedrin.


The orchestra was founded in 2016 and is generously supported by St John’s College, Oxford, in addition to private donations. It is directed by conductor Hannah Schneider.

About Hannah Schneider

Initiator of the Chrysalis Project, conductor Hannah Schneider is passionate about finding new avenues for classical music to thrive in the 21st century. As such, she founded Oxford Alternative Orchestra, an ensemble dedicated to the intersection of classical music, social outreach, and innovative performance practices. The lockdown caused by COVID-19 prompted her to re-imagine what collaborations across borders and mediums could look like. Chrysalis was the result. In addition to her non-conventional work, Schneider regularly guest conducts in the UK, USA, Russian, and Ukraine, and works as an assistant conductor of the Oxford Philharmonic Orchestra, as well holding upcoming engagements at The Grange Festival and the Royal Opera House. She is also a Rhodes Scholar at the University of Oxford, where she is finishing her PhD on Soviet opera.