Choreographer makes a splash in ‘Absolution’ film debut

She danced in “Swan Lake” at London’s famed Royal Albert Hall in 2016. Today, former Columbus resident Sarah Farnsley’s choreography skill will be in sharp focus at the Dances With Films Festival in Los Angeles.

The 30-year-old veteran freelance dancer’s work will be featured in the seven-minute film, “Absolution,” highlighting performers from Ballet Theatre of Indiana. The short work, the inspiration of troupe artistic director Stirling Matheson, details Absolution as “a place where lost souls end up — sort of a purgatory where travelers and vagabonds end up,” Farnsley said.

“It’s about accepting the mistakes and missteps you have made,” said Farnsley, speaking by phone from her home in London, England, where she lives with husband William Skertic, a data scientist with a London insurance company. “In this world I’ve created, it’s not about erasing what has happened in the past as much as it is about accepting it, and also accepting yourself.”

The film, shot in the middle of the night in a rain-machine downpour in late August in front of the Indiana limestone ruins at Holliday Park in Indianapolis, includes a cover version of the classic pop-rock song “House of the Rising Sun.” The tune constitutes the video’s only music, performed with a haunting, New Age feel by Farnsley’s sister, Caleigh Kilijonien and her husband Viktoras Kilijonas, who live in Lithuania.

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The duo produced the song with a beat to match the dancers’ movements.

“The choreography is not balletic at all,” Farnsley said. “It’s very gestural.”

Farnsley, a 2006 Columbus East High School graduate, saw a semi-rough cut about a month later. She saw the latest, final product a couple weeks ago.

A previous version of the flick was shown at an Indianapolis fundraiser for Ballet Theatre of Indiana in the fall.

“People really liked it,” Farnsley said. “But this was definitely a group of people already supportive of the (dance) company.”

Elizabethtown resident Alma Wiley, co-founder and former director of Dancers Studio Inc. in Columbus where Farnsley took classes as a youngster, is hardly surprised at her student’s success. Besides, Farnsley taught at the local studio while a college student at Butler University.

“I could tell then that she had a really good sense of putting things together,” Wiley said.

Away from the stage, Farnsley has a really good sense of two other gifts — ax throwing and knife throwing, good enough to win competitions over the years, thanks to training from her dad, Art Farnsley. Her part-time day job is training others in the art at Whistle Punks Urban Ax Throwing in London.

It is precisely as the name entails. Clearly, the woman with the lyrical, flowing movements in a ballet is not to be messed with beyond the performance hall.

“When I tell a group of dancers I have to go to work and I tell them what I do, their jaws hit the floor,” Farnsley said. “And when I finish a session with a group of people at Whistle Punks, they ask what else I do.

“So I tell them in my regular day job that I am a professional ballet dancer and choreographer, and again, jaws hit the floor.”