SF Ballet Alumnus Spotlight

As the oldest professional training academy in America, SF Ballet School has a sizable group of vibrant, diverse alumni, many of whom remain interested in dance long after they leave the School. Southern California native Shannon Levy-Heath trained for a summer at SF Ballet School in the early ‘70s. This summer she came back—for SF Ballet’s inaugural week-long Adult Ballet Workshop. Even after four decades, Levy-Heath says that returning to class at SF Ballet School felt like coming home. 

Adult Ballet Workshop participants // © Chris Hardy

How did you become interested in dance?
From the moment I could stand up, I was always dancing. My parents told me that I if I still wanted to dance when I was five, I could take classes. When I turned five, that’s exactly what I did. I’ve been dancing ever since.

What led you to SF Ballet School?
When I was 17 I auditioned for the School and was accepted on a full-scholarship—I was so excited! I vividly remember Harold Christensen (former director of the School) and his wife Ruby, who also used to teach there—they were wonderful. And I can still hear Ludmilla Schollar’s voice as she sang out combinations to us in her imitable style. She was a former member of both the Kirov Ballet (formerly Mariinsky Ballet) and the Ballet Russes, and it was amazing to be in the presence of someone so steeped in ballet history. I had a wonderful summer at the School, but my parents grew up during the Depression and didn’t have a chance to go to college, so I felt like I needed fulfill that dream.

How did you stay connected to dance throughout your life?
I left SF Ballet School and went to college, eventually getting both a BA and MA in Theater Arts with an emphasis in Dance. I have my own dance company, High Flight, and for more than ten years I was a part-time faculty member in the Department of Theatre Arts and Dance at California State University Los Angeles. Since 2000, I’ve been an adjunct member of the dance faculty at College of the Canyons. I’m also a yoga teacher and am currently working on a yoga for dancers practice, to explore the connection between breath and movement.

Taking the Adult Ballet Workshop here has allowed me to come full-circle; it’s brought back a lot of memories. I feel like I never left—like I’ve arrived home.