Principal Dancers

Yuan Yuan Tan

Richard C. Barker Principal Dancer

Yuan Yuan Tan

Yuan Yuan Tan (© Chris Hardy)

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Shanghai, China

Company Membership:

Joined as a soloist in 1995.
Promoted to principal dancer in 1997.
Appointed Richard C. Barker Principal Dancer in 2012.


Yuan Yuan Tan was born in Shanghai, China, and trained at Shanghai Dancing School and Stuttgart’s John Cranko School. She joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist in 1995 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1997.

Tan has danced such major roles as Giselle in Tomasson’s Giselle; Grand Pas de Deux Ballerina, Sugar Plum Fairy, and Queen of the Snow in Tomasson’s Nutcracker; Juliet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet; Aurora and Lilac Fairy in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty; Odette/Odile in Tomasson’s Swan Lake; Kitri in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote; Tatiana in Cranko’s Onegin; Desdemona in Lubovitch’s Othello; Mermaid in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid; and Cinderella in Wheeldon’s Cinderella. She created principal roles in Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, Caprice, Chi-Lin, The Fifth Season, and Silver Ladders; Kudelka’s The Ruins Proclaim the Building Was Beautiful; Liang’s Symphonic Dances; Morris’ Sylvia (Sylvia); Possokhov’s Damned, Diving into the Lilacs, Firebird, Fusion, Magrittomania, RAkU, Study in Motion, and Swimmer; Scarlett’s Hummingbird; Welch’s Tu Tu and Naked; and Wheeldon’s Continuum, Ghosts, Number Nine, and Quaternary, among others.

Her repertory includes Ashton’s Thaïs Pas de Deux; Balanchine’s Agon, Apollo, Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet, Concerto Barocco, “Diamonds,” Prodigal Son, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, Symphony in C, Symphony in Three Movements, and Theme and Variations; Duato’s Without Words; Forsythe’s Artifact Suite; Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; Liang’s Distant Cries and Somewhere in Time; MacMillan’s Winter Dreams; Makarova’s (after Petipa) “The Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère, Act II and Paquita; McGregor’s Chroma and Eden/Eden; Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons and Shostakovich Trilogy (Piano Concerto #1); Robbins’ Afternoon of a Faun, Dances at a Gathering, Dybbuk, and In the Night; Tudor’s Gala Performance; and Wheeldon’s After the Rain pas de deux and Polyphonia.

A frequent guest artist, Tan performed at the Vail International Dance Festival in August 2015; at MEX I AM Ballet and Opera Gala at the Palace of Fine Arts Theater in San Francisco in July 2015; and at TITAS Command Performance Gala in Dallas, Texas, in May 2015. She danced Possokhov’s Diving into the Lilacs and Liang’s Distant Cries and Letting Go at the 3rd International Ballet and Choreography Competition Gala at the National Centre for the Performing Arts in Beijing, China, in July 2015, and danced Swan Lake with Tiit Helimets at Festival Ballet Theatre in Irvine, California, in March 2015. She performed at Hong Kong Ballet’s French May Gala in 2014 and 2015. In 2013 she performed in “Liang/Maliphant/Wheeldon: An Evening Featuring Yuan Yuan Tan and Fang-Yi Sheu” at London’s Sadler’s Wells Theatre and served as a judge for the classical division of the 2nd International Ballet and Choreography Competition in Beijing, China (and performed at the awards ceremony). She performed in an international gala in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, in 2012; headlined “Yuan Yuan Tan and Eight Ballet Stars” in Nara, Japan, in 2003 and “Yuan Yuan Tan and Friends” in Shanghai in 2000; danced in a 2006 charity concert in Shanghai and in Magpie Bridge, a benefit promoting harmony between China and Japan. In December 2008, Tan was featured as Queen of the Snow in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker, co-produced by San Francisco Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York.

In April 2015, Hong Kong’s Phoenix TV named Tan one of the world’s most influential Chinese for her contributions to the arts. She received the 2014 Critics’ Circle National Dance Award for Outstanding Female Performance (Classical) for Possokhov’s RAkU, performed in London, England, in 2013, and a Dance Magazine Award in New York City in 2013. She received the Excellence Award from The Committee of 100, an elite organization of distinguished Chinese Americans, in 2010. She was named an honorary chair of the Asian Art Museum’s Shanghai Gala in 2010 and a “Hero of Asia” in the Asian edition of Time magazine in October 2004. She was featured in an international GAP ad campaign in 2012 and in Vogue magazine in April 2003. She received The Bud magazine City of Heart award in Shanghai in 2007 and was invited to the White House in 1999. She won a gold medal and the Nijinsky Award at the 1st Japan International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition in 1993 and a gold medal at the 5th International Ballet Competition in Paris in 1992. 

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San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's Nutcracker. (© Erik Tomasson)

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