The San Francisco International Arts Festival kicks off next week. The Chronicle’s Sunday Pink section asked me to talk with Scott Wells and Stephen Pelton, who share a program at Dance Mission May 19-22:

“With his ruffled hair and schlumpy sweatshirt, Scott Wells looks like he’s just lumbered in from the bedroom adjoining his Divisadero Street dance studio. He takes a sip of coffee and squints reflectively.

“Five or six years ago a famous choreographer was in town and a bunch of us dance people were invited to have lunch with him,” he says.

“I ended up chatting with this famous guy by myself for a while, and at some point he said, ‘I hate it. I get compared to Mark Morris, and I’m not as good as him.’ And this guy has gigs all over the world. And that’s when I thought, ‘Oh. You can make it to the top and still be bitter.’ That was my life lesson.”

Across the table, Stephen Pelton gives a knowing laugh. In many ways, the two men could not be more different. Wells has a tousled charm; Pelton is impeccably groomed. Wells is straight; Pelton is gay. Wells makes daredevil works that send dancers hurling over furniture and slamming against walls; Pelton creates dances of tense emotions and careful musicality.

But both arrived on the San Francisco dance scene in an era when the idea of success for a choreographer here was radically changing. And the two will share a program as part of an ambitious new festival that hopes to keep talents like Wells and Pelton in San Francisco — by helping them go abroad.”

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