SF Ballet School Faculty Spotlight
Born in Odessa, Ukraine, Larissa Ponomarenko trained at the Vaganova Ballet Academy in St. Petersburg and graduated under the legendary Ninel Kurgapkina. In 1993, she joined Boston Ballet as a principal dancer, where she was hailed as “a great dance-actress” (The Boston Globe), “poetry in motion” (Boston Magazine), and “a symbol of harmonious order” (Boston Herald) throughout her 18-year dance career with the company. After retiring from the stage in 2011, she joined Boston Ballet’s artistic staff as Ballet Master and Coach. She has had a worldwide presence, appearing in numerous galas and festivals, and as a guest artist and teacher. Ponomarenko was nominated for the Benois de la Danse award in 2005 for her interpretation of the role of Marguerite in Val Caniparoli’s Lady of the Camellias and is a recipient of the E. Virginia Williams Inspiration Award. Ponomarenko has been a San Francisco Ballet School Faculty member since 2020.
What brought you to San Francisco Ballet School?
Working with professional dancers of Boston Ballet as ballet master and coach was a dream job! But after 9 years, I felt the need to contribute to the education of younger generations in the field—to work in the school with students and help them become artists. And through that work, hopefully to help students see the beauty and importance of dance in the world, how it can inspire, change, move, and transform people’s lives. [I wanted to] help students to recognize and preserve the aesthetics that make dance differ from the sport, so dance may continue to strive and blossom as an art.
The invitation from Patrick Armand to work at SF Ballet School came at the right time in my life. Besides a tremendous respect for Armand’s professionalism, and tremendous respect for SF Ballet as an institution, the determining factor in making the move from coast to coast was the model under which SFBS operates. Instead of rotating between classes of students every other day, teachers at SFBS have a chance to work with the same group of students every day for at least a year. It’s such a great opportunity that allows teachers to really structure and craft the line of classes, follow the progress of students more carefully, and impart their knowledge more efficiently. [It results in] higher productivity and maximum achievement. I really wanted to be a part of such a process.
It’s the start of the new School year. What are you looking forward to this year?
Time flies; it is already my second year with SF Ballet. I must admit, every day I look forward to coming into the building and working with a wonderful team of staff, faculty, pianists, and students.
You joined the Faculty last year during the pandemic. Can you share one of your most memorable experiences in the studio with SF Ballet School students?
And as much as we all would like to, and look forward to going back to our “normal,” I am grateful for some incredibly inspiring moments of the last year. I will never forget students’ resilience through the restrictions of the pandemic, and the enthusiasm, eagerness, and passion with which they returned back to the studios. They were unstoppable! And incredibly inspiring!
Header Image: San Francisco Ballet students perform a demonstration during the Spring Festival // © Lindsay Thomas
Thumbnail Image: Larissa Ponomarenko // © Chris Hardy