Press Releases

January 19, 2012

San Francisco Ballet Announces Program and Casting for its 79th Repertory Season Opening Night Gala Thursday, January 19, 2012 at 8pm

Evening Includes Three Benefit Dinners and a One-Time-Only Gala Performance

SAN FRANCISCO, Thursday, January 19, 2012—Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson has announced the repertory for the 2012 Opening Night Gala, with the theme of Bella Notte, on Thursday, January 19 at 8pm at the War Memorial Opera House. San Francisco Ballet is America’s oldest professional ballet company with an illustrious history of “firsts,” including the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker.

Ten classical and contemporary works and excerpts will be presented as part of this one-night-only program.

Gala Performance
The gala performance will open with an excerpt from Yuri Possokhov’s Classical Symphony. Set to a score by Sergei Prokofiev and choreographed in 2010 as a tribute to his esteemed teacher Peter Pestov, the work fuses pure Russian ballet technique with a unique, modern sensibility. Jaime Garcia Castilla, Isaac Hernandez, Matthew Stewart, Benjamin Stewart, Steven Morse, and Diego Cruz will perform this excerpt. Set to the music of Dmitry Shostakovich and choreographed by David Bintley, The Dance House had its world premiere by SF Ballet in 1995. The work was inspired by the death of one of Bintley’s friends and informed by a medieval poem, and features scenic and costume designs by Robert Heindel. Sarah Van Patten, Tiit Helimets, and Pascal Molat will dance an excerpt from the work. Val Caniparoli’s Aria, created on Yuri Possokhov in 1997, is set to “Overture” and “Lascia ch’io pianga (Air de Almirena)” from George Frideric Handel’s opera Rinaldo. The work is in the repertory of a number of companies including SF Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, and Staatsballett Berlin, among others. Damian Smith will perform the solo work. Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan will perform George Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux, set to music that the composer originally created for Act III of Swan Lake. Christopher Wheeldon’s Continuum, one of his earliest works for the Company, debuted in 2002. The ballet is set to a score by György Ligeti and displays many hallmarks of Wheeldon’s contemporary choreographic style. The pas de deux—last performed during former Principal Dancer Muriel Maffre’s retirement gala in 2007—will be danced by Sofiane Sylve and Vito Mazzeo. First performed by the Kirov Ballet in 1932, Vassili Vainonen’s Flames of Paris is set to a score by Boris Assafiev and draws thematic  inspiration from the French Revolution. The pas de deux, which was last danced as part of the SF Ballet Opening Night Gala in 1997, is considered one of the finest showcases for dazzling classical technique. The work will be performed by Frances Chung and Taras Domitro.

Following a brief intermission, the gala program will continue with Hans van Manen’s Solo, which features three male dancers engaging in a display of choreographic one-upmanship as they take turns showcasing their abilities. The work, set to a score by Johann Sebastian Bach, was first performed in 1997 by Nederlands Dans Theater and received its SF Ballet premiere two years later in 1999. Last presented during the Farewell Celebration for former dancers Stephen Legate, Yuri Possokhov, and Peter Brandenhoff in May 2006, the virtuoso work will be performed by Gennadi Nedvigin, Garen Scribner, and Hansuke Yamamoto. Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada will perform the SF Ballet premiere of Sir Frederic Ashton’s Voices of Spring. The vibrant work is set to music by Johann Strauss and was first performed in 1977 as part of the Royal Opera’s production of Die Fledermaus. Yuan Yuan Tan and Guest Artist Alexander Riabko, a principal with Hamburg Ballet, will perform a pas de deux from John Neumeier’s Lady of the Camellias. Based on the Alexandre Dumas novel by the same title, Lady of the Camellias is set to the music of Frédéric Chopin and was first performed by the Stuttgart Ballet in 1978. Although this performance will be the SF Ballet premiere of the work, Tan previously performed the pas de deux as part of the 37th Nijinsky Gala in Hamburg, Germany in July 2011. The gala program will conclude with Wheeldon’s Number Nine. Set to the energetic music of Micheal Torke’s “Ash,” the ballet features four principal couples in a swift flourish of contemporary choreography. Upon its premiere last season, the San Francisco Chronicle described it as a “delectable paint-box of a dance…” The work will be performed by an ensemble featuring Dores Andre and Pascal Molat, Courtney Elizabeth and Isaac Hernandez, Dana Genshaft and Ruben Martin Cintas, and Elana Altman and Anthony Spaulding.

Program, program order, and casting are subject to change.

Dinners Benefit San Francisco Ballet
Prior to the Gala performance, three black-tie fundraising dinners will be held in City Hall. All proceeds from the dinners benefit San Francisco Ballet’s annual fund.

The San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary will host the Grand Benefactor, Benefactor, and Patron dinners in City Hall. All three dinners will have the theme of Bella Notte.

For all dinners, catering will be by McCall Associates, with wine provided by William Hill® Estate Winery, and water by Crystal Geyser. Sparkling wine is courtesy of La Marca™ Prosecco.

The evening begins with a cocktail reception at 5pm in the South Light Court of City Hall for guests of the Grand Benefactor, Benefactor, and Patron dinners.

The Grand Benefactor dinner will be held in City Hall’s Rotunda, and the Benefactor dinner and the Patron dinner will both be held in the North Light Court and the Rotunda Mezzanine. All dinners begin at 6pm. Marie Hurabiell Trader is the Auxiliary Gala chair; Carla Wytmar is the Gala dinner chair; and Dr. Carolyn Chang is the décor chair.

At City Hall, the dinner décor for the evening will be created by J. Riccardo Benavides of Ideas. San Francisco’s historic City Hall will serve as the backdrop for this year’s Italian Renaissance theme, Bella Notte. Each room will be uniquely appointed in its own color palette, with bold textured fabrics, statues, busts, architectural décor pieces, and elegant furnishings inspired by the leading artistic innovators of the Italian Renaissance. The color palette will reflect the bold and fanciful hues found in Michelangelo’s frescos and Botticelli’s paintings. The costumes and designs featured in Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, which will be presented as part of SF Ballet’s 2012 Repertory Season, were inspired by the fashions of Renaissance-era Verona. 

While feasting in the Palazzo-inspired atmosphere of the Rotunda, Grand Benefactors will be able to admire a 22-foot tall reproduction of Michelangelo’s “David.” Custom fabric arches displaying artistic busts and columns adjoining the grand staircase, will capture the style of art exalted by the Renaissance. Rotunda tables will be enveloped in persimmon and cerulean-colored linens embellished with gold accents. Ornate urns and candlesticks will elevate lush floral centerpieces in olive and fig tones.

As a reception area, the South Light court will feature an antique Old World bar on display with a floral focal point in the center. A panoramic view of “Verona” (18-feet-tall by 50-feet-wide) will be viewed from the salon furnished with plush textiles and gold finishes. Italian architectural elements and life-size statues will also adorn the room.

North Light Court Benefactors and Patrons will enjoy a resplendent experience with copious gold drapery and towering urns on columns surrounding the tables. Ambient lighting used throughout the room and on the ceiling will contribute to an idyllic atmosphere. Blush and raspberry colored linens, along with pomegranate and cherry hues featured in the centerpieces, will complement the opulent setting.

The Lead Sponsor is Pacific Gas and Electric Company and the Grand Benefactor Dinner Sponsor is U.S. Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management. The Benefactor Dinner is sponsored by KPMG, and the Patron Dinner is sponsored by J.P. Morgan. The Post-Performance Party is sponsored by HSBC Private Bank. The Bob Ross Foundation provided support for the Gala performance. Nob Hill Gazette is the Grand Benefactors Dinner media sponsor and Scene Magazine is the Gala Performance and Post-Performance media sponsor.

Athena and Timothy Blackburn hosted the Grand Benefactor and Benefactor Party. The Patron
Party was hosted by Christina C. Giguere and David R. Kvarats. The invitation sponsor is Pacific Union—Christie’s International Real Estate.

In addition, ENCORE!, the social and networking group of young professionals supporting SF Ballet, will host a cocktail reception in the South Light Court beginning at 6:15pm. The reception will feature three specialty Ketel One Vodka cocktails and hors d’ouvres by McCall Associates. Wine is provided by William Hill® Estate Winery, and water by Crystal Geyser. Sparkling wine is courtesy of La Marca™ Prosecco. Robin Farmanfarmaian is ENCORE! President and Gala Chair.

For those attending the Gala performance only, the prosecco promenade will begin at 7pm in the Opera House main lobby. The promenade is open to all ticket holders.

Post-Performance Party
The La Dolce Vita Post-Performance Party will be held in City Hall from approximately 10pm–1am. The party will include live entertainment by the rock band Notorious, DJ Solomon and SF Ballet Dancer Sebastian Vinet, and feature dancing, refreshments, Italian antipasto, and desserts. Tickets for the La Dolce Vita Post-Performance Party are $100 for SF Ballet subscribers and $125 for non-subscribers. To purchase tickets to the La Dolce Vita Post-Performance Party, visit or call 415.865.2000.

Gala performance tickets are currently on sale to the public and are $40–300. Tickets for the Post-Performance Party are $125 for the general public, $100 for subscribers. To order, visit or call Ticket Services at 415.865.2000, Monday through Friday from 10am–4pm.


San Francisco Ballet
As America’s oldest professional ballet company, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia. San Francisco Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, Willam and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson for more than two decades, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world. In 2005, San Francisco Ballet won the prestigious Laurence Olivier Award in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Dance” and in 2006, it was the first non-European company elected “Company of the Year” in Dance Europe magazine’s annual readers’ poll. In 2008, the Company marked its 75th anniversary with a host of initiatives including an ambitious New Works Festival. Recent highlights include a tour to the People’s Republic of China, the celebration of Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s 25th anniversary with the Company, and the United States premiere of John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, which was broadcast internationally, as well as nationally on PBS’s Great Performances “Dance in America” in December 2011.

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