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Newly appointed principal WanTing Zhao in Helgi Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB.

San Francisco Ballet has announced its 2019 company promotions, and artistic director Helgi Tomasson has elevated five talented young artists who all started in the company's corps de ballet. With several world premieres along with Balanchine's A Midsummer Night's Dream and the full-scale Jewels planned for the 2020 season, there will be ample opportunities for these dancers to shine on the SFB stage. Read on to learn more about them, and congratulations to all!

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In honor of its 85th anniversary, San Francisco Ballet has commissioned works from 12 internationally-recognized choreographers to contribute to the company's Unbound: A Festival of New Works, now in progress. Pointe spoke with Belgian-Colombian choreographer Annabelle Lopez Ochoa and corps member Solomon Golding about the process of making Guernica, Ochoa's work inspired by the painting of the same name by Pablo Picasso.

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Ballet Careers

Last Thursday was World Ballet Day LIVE, the official 22-hour live-stream relay showcasing companies across the globe. If you were busy (we know that you don't always have the luxury to spend an entire day watching ballet), don't fret. Many of the companies involved recorded their classes, rehearsals and interviews from the day of, and we rounded them up for you to watch at your leisure. Careful, though; there are more than twenty hours of footage included here... make sure you take a break to, you know, sleep.


First up is San Francisco Ballet with a full five hours, including rehearsal for Balanchine's timeless classic, Serenade.


The Royal Ballet's WBD stream is split into three parts. Here's the first chunk, featuring company rehearsals of a few Sir Kenneth MacMillan ballets as well as Christopher Wheeldon's Alice in Wonderland (a measly two hours and 45 minutes). You can find part 2 here and the full company class here. The video also features a quick aerial tour of London from the balcony of the Royal Opera House.

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Photo by Emily Gan, Courtesy National Ballet of Canada

If everyone in your ballet class has called out sick on October 5, there's a perfectly good explanation: that's when World Ballet Day LIVE is scheduled to return. In other words, 24 hours of binge-worthy behind-the-scenes footage featuring five of the world's leading ballet companies. Tune in to Facebook Live to watch as The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet take you inside the studio for classes, rehearsals and interviews with your favorite dancers. Details have yet to be released, but we'll be sure to keep you in the loop! In the meantime, mark your calendars, and enjoy some of San Francisco Ballet's highlights from last year's event.


Nowadays, when a ballet company wants to promote a new work, or an upcoming season, they go all-out. Rather than cutting together a bunch of performance footage, companies are creating mini-films that bring the artistic director or choreographer's vision to life. And with recording and editing equipment more widely available than ever, it makes sense.

Take, for example, two recent films produced by Dance Theatre of Harlem and San Francisco Ballet, respectively. In DTH's season trailer, we get less of a performance overview and more of a narrative, conveying the power of tradition, representation and diversity within the ballet world, and using a curious little girl as an example of how ballet can change lives. It's even set against an original song by India Arie!

SFB's trailer for corps member Myles Thatcher's upcoming premiere Ghost in the Machine takes us on a whirlwind adventure covering many behind-the-scenes aspects of a new work. We see Thatcher sketching out movement patterns in his notebook, conferring with a costume designer and taking class, plus tantalizing glimpses of the choreography.

It seems like Hollywood movie trailers become more sophisticated every year, so it's no surprise that media-savvy ballet companies aren't far behind.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

From April 20–May 6 2018, San Francisco Ballet will host a festival featuring an impressive roster of top choreographers.

SFB artistic director Helgi Tomasson has chosen choreographers with massive reputations and tons of experience. The full lineup is as follows: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Yuri Possokhov, Dwight Rhoden, Stanton Welch, and Christopher Wheeldon. These artists have, collectively, worked with a tremendous variety of dance companies around the world. Their stylistic approaches are just as diverse.

 

(Photo via @sfballet on Instagram)

 

 

There are several things to celebrate about this group. King, who has been the artistic director of San Francisco–based Alonzo King LINES Ballet since 1982, has (surprisingly) never made a ballet for SFB. It's high time the two major San Francisco companies pooled their powers. There is some racial diversity, with King, Rhoden, Ochoa and Liang representing decades of experience and leadership. Former Royal Opera House associate artist Cathy Marston seems to be receiving her first nod from a major American ballet company, despite a two-decade, international choreographic career (she has created for The Washington Ballet).

But, as usual, there are so few (too few) women. Recent conversations about gender parity in the ballet world might make it seem like female choreographers are only just now appearing—that there aren't women who can match the men in terms of an impressive resume. But that's not the case. Artists like Helen Pickett, Francesca Harper, Crystal Pite, Emery LeCrone, Jessica Lang, Azure Barton and Amy Seiwert have been around for a while, quietly creating for companies around the world, and oddly overlooked by most large American companies. It would have been great to see a few more experienced women alongside their accomplished male counterparts.

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

 

Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian in George Balanchine's Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux (Photo by Erik Tomasson)

Longtime San Francisco Ballet principals (and husband and wife) Davit Karapetyan and Vanessa Zahorian have announced their retirement at the end of the 2017 season. They'll make a cross-country move to become the joint artistic directors of the Pennsylvania Ballet Academy. In addition to new directors, the academy will have a brand new facility, beginning this summer.

Zahorian trained at one of Pennsylvania's other top schools, the Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet. During her 20-year career with SFB, she was known for interpretations of all the major classics, as well as her roles in major works by current choreographers like Christopher Wheeldon and Mark Morris. Karapetyan joined SFB as a principal in 2005, after dancing with Zurich Ballet.

There will be a farewell performance for both dancers at the end of the season.

San Francisco is in the midst of a generational shift, as three principal men retired last year. There will be lots of room for promotions in the next few years, and we're excited to see the future success of the company's many talented dancers!

Frances Chung and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Coppélia
(Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy SFB)

In Balanchine's comedic Coppélia, San Francisco Ballet's Frances Chung brings out Swanilda's playful side.

All of Swanilda's actions come from a place of pure fun. She's kind of sassy, but I like bringing out her playfulness instead of taking a more bratty approach. The role comes quite naturally to my personality. When my partner and I are in the studio, we're very playful even though we're working hard and refining everything. I try to have a good time and I think that it translates onstage.

As Swanilda, my love for Franz is very youthful, like when you hit someone because you like him. I'm quite confident in myself and in our love, even though I see him blowing kisses at another girl (really a doll). I get mad for a second, but at the end of the day I know he's going to choose me. That's my underlying feeling. When I finally make the connection that she's a doll, I think it's hilarious!

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Erik Tomasson

Dores André doesn't like shopping, but she loves clothes. Her favorite source of style inspiration is the 1964 comedy What a Way to Go!, starring Shirley MacLaine and a closet of over-the-top costumes. “It's just crazy—she wears, like, thousands and thousands of outfits," André says. “I wish I owned every single piece in that movie." When it comes to her own personal style, “I'd say it's a little like Natalie Wood meets Pussy Riot," she says. Black is an easy go-to, but when she has time she puts together more eclectic, colorful ensembles, and she likes a bit of punk edge. In the studio, André dresses for the work she's rehearsing. “I don't like wearing pink tights in general, but if I'm doing a classical piece I'll wear them," she says. “Or if it's a little more contemporary, I'll wear shorts instead of a skirt." She looks for pieces that are flattering (long-sleeved leos are one favorite), while still allowing her to dance her best. “You have to look good, but also make it so you can look good dancing," she says.

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Three of San Francisco's most stunning leading men have just retired from the company. After multi-decade careers, Joan Boada, Pascal Molat and Gennadi Nedvigin took their final bows during an emotional farewell performance on April 17. Nedvigin will join Atlanta Ballet as its new artistic director.

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There's something compelling about the pristine classicism of ballet contrasted against a gritty setting. The viral success of videos like Sergei Polunin and David LaChapelle's "Take Me to Church" doesn't lie.

Here's another video to add to the list of edgy and beautiful dance films out there: Ezra Hurwitz's latest endeavor with San Francisco Ballet. The film is a trailer for the upcoming Justin Peck premiere at SFB, In the Countenance of Kings. It showcases some of the company dancers in choreography pulled directly from the ballet. The twist? They're dancing in a stunning, abandoned train station instead of onstage at the War Memorial Opera House. The music, composed by frequent Peck collaborator Sufjan Stevens, is propulsive. The dancing is energetic and free. And, in an adorable twist, the performers are all wearing white sneakers.

We love Hurwitz's video collaborations because they give a dreamy, romantic twist to standard behind-the-scenes mini-documentaries. And, since he's a retired member of Miami City Ballet, the films are full of little details that dancers know other dancers want to see. This trailer is no different.

Enjoy! And check out some of Hurwitz's earlier work here, and here.

 

For more news on all things ballet, don’t miss a single issue.

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