Summer with SF Ballet: Part 1

Summer with SF Ballet: Part 1

When dancers are in the off-season, they’re not really off.

Part one of our two-part series, “Summer with SF Ballet,” offers highlights from all things SF Ballet during the summer months:

Sadler's Wells, London: May 29–June 8

Aaron Robison in company class during tour in London // © Erik Tomasson

"That was epic!!!!!!!!!!!,” wrote one theatergoer on Instagram after the Company’s first performance at Sadler’s Wells Theatre in London. The tour opened on May 29 with Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy and marked a welcome return to the capital city for SF Ballet, which was last seen there in 2012. This year’s programming included 10 European premieres and a whole lot of tinsel; favorites from the 2018 Unbound festival like David Dawson’s Anima Animus, Cathy Marston’s Snowblind and—of course—Arthur Pita’s hypnotic Björk Ballet took the stage.

“Stylish, forward-thinking, technically impressive, San Francisco Ballet carries all the hallmarks of its home city.”  The Guardian

Elizabeth Powell and Kimberly Marie Olivier getting read for company class during tour in London // © Erik Tomasson

By the end of the four programs, UK outlets had published 55 reviews in total. "The dancers are brilliant,” wrote The Guardian’s Lyndsey Winship in her post-tour wrap-up. “Shout outs to Sasha De Sola, who transformed from the prim perfection of a pageant queen in Bespoke to earnest, lyrical dancer of Hummingbird in the time it took to change costumes; to Angelo Greco, who landed a double tour with such flawless style it made me laugh out loud; and the infectiously joyful jumping of Wei Wang.” For audience reactions, flip through SF Ballet’s Instagram story, where we captured a few (“When I saw [The Infinite Ocean] I was very intrigued; my mind was at work. Are they worshipping something? Are they looking at the sun?” observed one young patron).

After the tour closed on June 8, dancers scattered across the world on vacation, sharing highlights on Instagram: Daniel Deivison-Oliveira’s visits from family in London, Yuan Yuan Tan’s arabesques in Moscow, and Ludmila Bizalion’s strolls through Van Gogh-esque lavender fields in Provence.

Ballet Sun Valley, Idaho: July 5–7

A Conversation with Helgi Tomasson at The Community Library Lecture Hall // © Erik Tomasson

Back in the States, SF Ballet performed two programs at Ballet Sun Valley in Idaho on July 5 and 7. This popular resort town boasts mountains, equestrian routes, and hiking trails—a clear departure from San Francisco’s bustling cityscape. And at 5,945 feet in elevation, it’s not always easy to catch your breath: “Dancing in high altitudes can be challenging because the level of stamina you’re used to, like at sea level in San Francisco, completely goes away,” says Dores André. “The challenges are worth it though, especially at Sun Valley, where the open-air atmosphere, mountains, and greenery are a refreshing change of pace."

“High-flying aerial twirls, elegance, intrigue… The [Company] engendered rave reviews from the sell-out crowd that spilled out onto the Pavilion lawn on a picture perfect summer evening.” —Eye on Sun Valley

André is one of 38 Company members who traveled to Sun Valley to dance in a gala-style program (think pas de deux and dynamic excerpts) on opening night. On July 7, the Company danced Stanton Welch’s Bespoke, Trey McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, and Justin Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming.

Stern Grove Festival: July 28

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Scotch Symphony. (Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust) // © Erik Tomasson)

After returning to San Francisco, the Company hit the ground running to prepare for the free Stern Grove Festival performance, a San Francisco Ballet tradition since 1943. This year, the repertory included two Balanchine works—Scotch Symphony and the Rubies pas de deux—in addition to excerpts from Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty and Possokhov’s Diving Into the Lilacs. Peck’s sneaker ballet Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming closed the program.

Held in a tree-lined venue in San Francisco’s Sunset district, this year’s performance introduced audiences to Misa Kuranaga, the Company’s brand new principal dancer, who danced with Esteban Hernandez in the Rubies pas de deux. For those who have been around long enough, Kuranaga may be a familiar face; she joined the Company as an apprentice in 2001 after studying at SF Ballet School, before leaving for Boston Ballet—where she spent the next 16 years. On Sunday, Kuranaga was among her colleagues staying warm backstage while patrons curled up to wine, coffee, and picnic lunches, eagerly awaiting the top of the show.Earlier in the week, SF Ballet School faculty member Kristi DeCaminada visited the grove to teach global dance styles to children as part of Stern Grove Festival’s “Kids Days,” an admission-free education and outreach program. Choreographer Cathy Marston even joined the celebration; nestled into the Trocadero Clubhouse, she discussed what it’s like to work with SF Ballet in advance of her world premiere on Program 05 in the 2020 Season. Shh—details of her new ballet are a secret, for now.

Dores André backstage during the Sun Valley Festival. (© Erik Tomasson)
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Now that it’s August, dancers are back in the studios preparing for the upcoming season. Cathy Marston has been in town to work on her new ballet, as have Balanchine répétiteurs Sandra Jennings and Elyse Borne, who have been working with dancers to stage ‘Mr. B’s’ three-ballet masterpiece, Jewels. It’s bustling over here at 455 Franklin Street. Stay tuned—this is only part one of “Summer with SF Ballet”!

Header Image: Esteban Hernandez in Welch's Bespoke during the Sun Valley Festival // © Erik Tomasson