This is Pointe's February/March 2019 Cover Story. You can subscribe to the magazinehere, or click here to purchase this issue.
When Natasha Sheehan debuted in The Sleeping Beauty's Bluebird pas de deuxlast season, she enchanted the San Francisco Ballet audience with her filigree footwork, elegant lines and effortless charisma. It was a big moment for the then-19-year-old, who was just beginning her second year in the corps, but it wasn't her first—Sheehan has been in the spotlight since she was a 16-year-old trainee in the company school.
That's when SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson gave her the lead in his Bartók Divertimento for the 2016 season gala, an evening featuring the company's biggest stars. Before that she was a cygnet in Swan Lake. "It felt like a dream," Sheehan says of getting featured roles so early. But it was also high-stakes. "During the 'Little Swans,' I could see Helgi watching me in the wings," she recalls vividly. "It was like, 'This is my one chance. I have to do this right.' "
You know you've really made it when a children's book has been made about your life. While San Francisco Ballet principal Sasha De Sola has long inspired audiences young and old onstage, she is now the subject of On Tiptoes/De Puntitas, a bilingual book by Catalina V. Monterrubio with gorgeously illustrations by Gabriela García. Told in English and Spanish, On Tiptoes/De Puntitas ($24.90, available at Book Bank USA) is actually two stories that start at either end and meet in the middle. One follows De Sola, whose mother puts her in ballet to help her overcome her shyness; she later battles an injury and joins SFB through her hard work and dedication. The other story follows a fictional boy who falls in love with De Sola after seeing her perform. Inspired, he decides to become a dancer himself and overcomes bullying from his peers. The two stories converge when the dancers meet and perform a pas de deux.
De Sola, who was born in Florida of Venezuelan parents, grew up speaking Spanish. She played a central role in the book's creation, offering its creators guidance on both ballet life and its aesthetics. "I'd love to see a world where we collaborate more as artists," she said in an interview with Pointe last month. Below, she talks about how the process unfolded and what she hopes the book achieves.
Weeks, a newly promoted SFB soloist, in Christopher Wheeldon's Bound To. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
If a dancer is very lucky, and very prepared, one performance can transform their career. Lonnie Weeks was that dancer on the opening night of San Francisco Ballet's Unbound Festival in April. Chosen by Christopher Wheeldon for the emotionally wrenching final solo in Bound To, Weeks, 27, went onstage as a superb but largely unsung company artist. When the curtain came down 30 minutes later, he was, rightfully, a star.
San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung with her dressing room pal, Iggy. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
A dancer's dressing room is often her "home away from home." We went backstage with Boston Ballet principal Lia Cirio, San Francisco Ballet principal Frances Chung and Richmond Ballet dancer Cody Beaton to see how they personalize their space and get performance-ready.
Photo credits, clockwise from bottom left: Peter Mueller, Courtesy Cincinnati Ballet; Jayme Thornton; Jochen Viehoff, Courtesy Stephanie Troyak; Karolina Kuras, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada; Natasha Razina, Courtesy State Academic Mariinsky Theatre; Kim Kenney, Courtesy Atlanta Ballet; Jim Lafferty; Arian Molina Soca, Courtesy Pennsylvania Ballet; Altin Kaftira, Courtesy Dutch National Ballet; Scott Shaw, Courtesy Shamar Wayne Watt
What's next for the dance world? Our annual list of the dancers, choreographers and companies that are on the verge of skyrocketing has a pretty excellent track record of answering that question.
Here they are: the 25 up-and-coming artists we believe represent the future of our field.
Sasha De Sola and Hansuke Yamamoto in George Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy San Francisco Ballet.
Master pointe shoe fitter Josephine Lee of the California-based The Pointe Shop touches base with San Francisco Ballet principal Sasha De Sola on all of her pointe shoe hacks, from darning to stirrup tights to customizations. Plus, we think De Sola might win the award for how quickly she kills her pointe shoes. (Hint: It's under an hour).
SFB corps de ballet dancer Miranda Silveira in Athleta. Photo Courtesy Athleta.
Just in time for Nutcracker season (and the cold weather that has us layering on our coziest warmups), fitness brand Athleta teamed up with San Francisco Ballet for their first Athleta Dance collection. Available beginning November 27, the capsule collection will include designs in women's and girl's sizes inspired by and created in collaboration with the dancers of SFB.
Of course, this isn't the first time a major athletic wear brand has teamed up with professional ballerinas. Under Armour has now launched two collections with American Ballet Theatre principal Misty Copeland, and most recently, Royal Ballet principal Francesca Hayward created limited-edition designs with Lululemon.
San Francisco Ballet is bringing six works from their Unbound: A Festival of New Works to The Kennedy Center this week. Here, dancers are pictured in Christopher Wheeldon's Bound To. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy The Kennedy Center.
Wonder what's going on in ballet this week? We've pulled together some highlights.
Miranda Silveira was a member of San Francisco Ballet's Trainee Program before making her way into the company. Here she's pictured in rehearsal for Balanchine's Serenade. Photo by Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.
Receiving a second company or trainee contract can help bridge the gap from student to professional. Whether you make it into the main company afterwards or move on to another one, these years, if danced to the fullest, can be valuable to your life and career.