Press Releases

June 2, 2015

San Francisco Ballet Announces 2016 Repertory Season Company Members

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, Tuesday, June 2, 2015—Effective immediately, San Francisco Ballet announces five promotions, four new Company members, and six apprentices for the 2016 Repertory Season. Soloist Dores André has been promoted to principal dancer, and Lauren Strongin joins SF Ballet from Houston Ballet as a soloist. The corps de ballet now includes former SF Ballet Apprentices Samantha Bristow, Benjamin Freemantle, John-Paul Simoens, and Maggie Weirich, in addition to Jahna Frantziskonis from Pacific Northwest Ballet, Alessandra Vassallo from Teatro alla Scala, and Kamryn Baldwin from the SF Ballet School. Grace Choi, Blake Kessler, Anastasia Kubanda, Haruo Niyama, Chisako Oga, and Francisco Sebastião of the SF Ballet School have been promoted to the rank of apprentice.

Dores André joined SF Ballet in 2004 as a corps de ballet member. She hails from Vigo, Spain, where she trained with Antonio Almenara at Estudio de Danza de María Ávila. During the 2015 Repertory Season, she debuted as Juliet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet. André has performed a diverse repertory that includes works by Tomasson, Balanchine, Elo, Forsythe, McGregor, Morris, Robbins, Scarlett, Taylor, and Wheeldon, among others. She has been described as “impeccable” and “brilliant” by the San Francisco Chronicle and San Francisco Examiner, respectively. 

Samantha Bristow, Benjamin Freemantle, John-Paul Simoens, and Maggie Weirich have been promoted to the corps de ballet. Originally from Media, Pennsylvania, Samantha Bristow trained at The Rock School for Dance Education prior to attending SF Ballet School’s year-round program. She was a Trainee for two years before being named an apprentice in 2014. Bristow has performed in Tomasson’s Nutcracker, Wheeldon’s Cinderella, and Robbins’ Glass Pieces, among others. Benjamin Freemantle was born in Port Moody, British Columbia and named SF Ballet apprentice in 2014. As a Trainee at the SF Ballet School, he performed a principal role in Balanchine’s Raymonda Variations. This past year as an apprentice, Freemantle choreographed Bare, a new work for the School’s Student Showcase, in between performing corps de ballet roles with the Company. From San Pedro, California is John-Paul Simoens, who trained at Lauridsen Ballet Centre and participated in summer programs at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School, Houston Ballet, and The Royal Ballet before receiving an invitation to SF Ballet School’s Trainee Program. In 2012 alone, he competed and finished as a semi-finalist at Prix de Lausanne, Youth America Grand Prix, and Spotlight Competition. Simoens became an SF Ballet apprentice in 2014. Maggie Weirich from Portland, Oregon trained at the School of Oregon Ballet Theatre and SF Ballet School. Since being named apprentice in 2014, she has performed in Tomasson’s Giselle; Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments; Wheeldon’s Cinderella; Makarova’s The Kingdom of the Shades, Act II from La Bayadère after Petipa; and several other notable ballets.

New Company Members
Kamryn Baldwin from Honolulu, Hawaii joins the corps de ballet from the SF Ballet School. She has performed in MacMillan’s Soirèes Musicales, Tomasson’s Nutcracker, and Sofranko’s Mozart Symphony. Baldwin previously trained at the Metropolitan Ballet Academy in Jenkintown, Pennsylvania. Jahna Frantziskonis of Tucson, Arizona arrives from Pacific Northwest Ballet, where the Seattle Post-Intelligencer called her a dancer “to watch.” She originated a featured role in Tharp’s Waiting at the Station and performed leading parts in Kylián’s Petite Mort, Stroman’s TAKE FIVE…More or Less, and Stowell’s Nutcracker and Swan Lake. Prior to her professional dancing career, she studied at the PNB School on scholarship. Raised in Scottsdale, Arizona, new SF Ballet Soloist Lauren Strongin was born in Los Gatos, California and previously danced with Houston Ballet for six years. Her training includes full scholarships to The Kirov Academy of Ballet in Washington, D.C. and the John Cranko School in Stuttgart, Germany. In 2001, she finished as finalist and cash prizewinner at the Prix de Lausanne International Ballet Competition. At Houston Ballet, she created roles in Barton’s Angular Momentum, Elo’s ONE/end/ONE, Kudelka’s The Young Person’s Guide to the Orchestra, and many others. Alessandra Vassallo from Teatro alla Scala joins SF Ballet as a corps de ballet member for the upcoming season. Vassallo was born in Palermo, Italy and trained at the prestigious Academia Teatro alla Scala under Frédéric Olivieri’s direction. She joined the Company upon graduation in 2008 and performed roles such as Hippolyta in Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Myrtha in a restaging of Giselle by Chauviré.

New Apprentices
Six SF Ballet School students have been named apprentices for the 2016 Repertory Season. They are: Grace Choi (Seoul, South Korea), Blake Kessler (Jacksonville, Florida), Anastasia Kubanda (Front Royal, Virginia), Haruo Niyama (Nagano, Japan), Chisako Oga (San Diego, California), and Francisco Sebastião (Amora, Portugal). As apprentices, dancers will take Company class and perform corps de ballet roles in SF Ballet productions. 

Principal Series subscriptions for the 2016 Repertory Season will go on sale to the general public on July 7. The season will run from January 24 through May 8 at the War Memorial Opera House. For information, call the Ticket Services Office at 415.865.2000, or visit

* * * *