SAN FRANCISCO, Tuesday, March 2, 2010 — San Francisco Ballet today announced that effective immediately, it will pay tribute to SF Ballet Board of Trustees Chair Emeritus Chris Hellman by naming the Ballet building at 455 Franklin Street, in her honor. A new sign, which will read "San Francisco Ballet, Chris Hellman Center for Dance” will be physically mounted on the front of the building in a ceremony this April.
Hellman’s ardent support of the Company, along with her husband Warren’s, began in 1983 when she joined SF Ballet’s Board of Trustees. In addition to being a current Board member, Hellman held the position of Board Chair from 1991–99, and is a former soloist with London Festival Ballet. Her extensive involvement with the Company includes working alongside fellow Board member Lucy Jewett, as an honorary co-chair of the Ballet’s 75th Anniversary Celebration Committee. In 1998, she led a successful return of the Company to the War Memorial Opera House, following a two-year absence while the Opera House was seismically retrofitted. In 2005, the Hellmans were elected Great Benefactors of SF Ballet. In 1999, she received the Association’s highest honor, the Lew Christensen medal, and has served as a director of the SF Ballet Endowment Foundation since 2003.
“Commemorating Chris during the twenty-fifth year of my artistic directorship here is very fitting since she and Warren have always provided unwavering support for my artistic vision, right from the start,” said SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “Chris has also been instrumental in enabling the Company not only to thrive, but to achieve its current status as a world-class ballet company. Personally and professionally, I am very grateful to her.”
“The Ballet is indebted to Chris for the incredible generosity and leadership she has shown us over the years. Her support has impacted every aspect of the Ballet, including the development of new works, touring, the SF Ballet School, the Center for Dance Education, and the construction of the Ballet building; the list is endless,” said SF Ballet Executive Director Glenn McCoy. “We are very pleased that we can acknowledge Chris’ dedication in such a public and lasting way.”
“I am incredibly touched by this honor,” said Hellman. “As a former dancer, it’s been a true pleasure to work so closely with San Francisco Ballet all these years and I am continually proud and impressed by the Company’s depth of talent and innovation.”
Completed in 1983, SF Ballet’s building was the first facility in the United States created expressly to house a major ballet company and its School. The building has served as a model for other dance-related buildings nationwide and also houses SF Ballet’s Center for Dance Education and an extensive Dancer Wellness Center. The building underwent a major renovation and expansion in 2003–04.
As America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933. It performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first production of Coppélia choreographed by an American choreographer. 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 a year locally, nationally, and abroad. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson for 25 years, 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, its first, in the category of “Outstanding Achievement in Dance,” for its 2004 London tour. In 2006, San Francisco Ballet was the first non-European company elected “Company of the Year” in Dance Europe magazine’s annual readers’ poll. In 2008, San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 75th anniversary with a host of initiatives that included a New Works Festival of 10 world premieres by 10 renowned choreographers. 2010 marks the twenty-fifth year of SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s tenure with the Company.