Betsy Erickson was born in Oakland, California and began her formal dance training at San Francisco Ballet School on a Ford Foundation Scholarship, where she studied with Lew and Harold Christensen and Anatole Vilzak. In addition, she studied for many years with Valentina Pereyslavic and Hector Zaraspe in New York.
Erickson was appointed ballet master in January 1992. She is responsible for rehearsal of various ballets from San Francisco Ballet’s repertory, including works by Lew Christensen, Helgi Tomasson, Val Caniparoli, Jerome Robbins, and Mark Morris.
From 1964 to 1967, Erickson was a soloist with San Francisco Ballet. For the subsequent five years, she was a soloist with American Ballet Theatre, where she danced both soloist and principal roles in Swan Lake and Giselle, and in ballets by choreographers including Antony Tudor, Agnes de Mille, Jerome Robbins, and Leonide Massine. In 1972 she returned to SF Ballet, where she performed principal roles with the Company until 1984.
During her sixteen-year career with San Francisco Ballet, Erickson’s repertory included principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Lew Christensen, Jerome Robbins, and Michael Smuin. Erickson danced principal and soloist roles in such ballets as Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments, Agon, and Symphony in C; and Lew Christensen’s Variations de Ballet and Vivaldi Concerto Grosso, a work in which the central pas de deux was created expressly for her.
Following her retirement in 1984, Erickson became ballet mistress for Oakland Ballet for seven and a half years. During her tenure there, she choreographed many works including Songs (1990), Sfumato (1986), and Waterways (1982). In 1990 she traveled to Hong Kong to
set Sfumato and Val Caniparoli’s Connotations on the Hong Kong Ballet. The ballets were subsequently performed in Hong Kong, mainland China, and in South Africa by NAPAC Dance Company. Erickson has continued her choreography while at San Francisco Ballet and her works include Wild Echoes Flying (1995) and Beneath the Wake (1998), both for Oakland Ballet. In addition, she served as artistic director of the National Ballet of Colombia in Bogota in 1986.
Erickson has received many awards and fellowships, including a 1990 California Arts Council Fellowship, the first of such funding given to an individual choreographer. She has also been awarded six National Endowment for the Arts choreographer fellowships (for the period between 1984 and 1987, again in 1990, and in 1995). From 1996 to 1998, Erickson was awarded a national Dance Residency Program Grant, funded by Pew Charitable Trusts and administered by the New York Foundation for the Arts. In addition, she currently acts as a consultant for the Performing Arts Assistance Program of the Zellerbach Family Fund. Erickson is also a former board trustee for Performing Arts and Dance for the Djerassi Foundation Artist in Residence Program in Woodside, and has twins, Julia and Stephen Nemy, born in 1995. Erickson is married to Jeff Nemy.
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