ABOUT SAN FRANCISCO BALLET SCHOOL
The dream of becoming a professional ballet dancer may begin with Nutcracker. But the real work starts here, at San Francisco Ballet School.
SF Ballet School offers a challenging curriculum, taught by faculty members drawn from the ranks of San Francisco Ballet and companies around the world. The School benefits from its close relationship with the Company. In fact, the School is a fundamental part of the institution—73% of the Company’s dancers trained in SF Ballet School. We emphasize strong classical technique, a flow of movement and athleticism that suggests a sense of energy, freedom, and joy. This style—which reflects the kind of dancing favored by SF Ballet—adapts to meet the demands of any choreographer, any company, and any type of movement.
When you enroll in San Francisco Ballet School, you follow in the footsteps of thousands of young dancers who have honed the skills that set them on the path toward a career in ballet. As an extension of SF Ballet, our school possesses a decades-long track record of training dancers at the highest levels of excellence. Our facility includes nine light-filled spacious studios shared by the School and Company, changing rooms, and a fully-equipped student wellness center.
Under the combined leadership of SF Ballet Interim School Director Katarina Wester and Artistic Director Tamara Rojo, the School has a dual mission: to train classical ballet dancers capable of joining the ranks of SF Ballet and other world-renowned companies and to offer young children and adults in the Bay Area an introduction to ballet and the joy of moving to music.
What makes San Francisco Ballet a different kind of ballet company can be seen every day in the studios of San Francisco Ballet School. Today, we are a breeding ground for a new generation of dancers: athletic, exuberant, assured—a uniquely American aesthetic. SF Ballet School trained dancers are artists with distinctly individual talents, grounded in the classical tradition, yet flexible enough to tackle any style and the work of any choreographer.
SF Ballet School was founded the same year as the Company in 1933, making it the oldest school for serious ballet training in the US. At that time, the Company, still a part of SF Opera, was overseen by Adolph Bolm, who was both director and ballet master, and occasionally presented all-dance programs. But San Francisco Ballet truly began to take shape as an independent entity when Willam Christensen became Company ballet master in 1938. Two years later he appointed his brother, Harold, director of the School.
In 1942, Willam and Harold Christensen bought the School from San Francisco Opera, which could no longer provide financial support to the ballet operation. As a result, the San Francisco Ballet Guild was formed in order to maintain the Company as an independent performing unit. Willam Christensen was named artistic director of San Francisco Ballet, and Harold continued on as director of the School.
Harold, like his brothers Willam and Lew (the three men most responsible for guiding the Company and the School for some 45 years), was an American-trained ballet dancer. He was the preeminent educator among the brothers who directed the development of ballet in the western United States for an entire generation. Under Harold's guidance, the School evolved into one of the country's finest classical academies. Scholarship programs were initiated and the faculty grew to include numerous prominent classical ballet teachers. Harold directed the School for 35 years, developing many dancers who went on to careers with San Francisco Ballet and other prestigious companies.
When Harold retired in 1975, Richard Cammack became the new director of the School. Cammack oversaw the School's move into its current state-of-the-art facility in 1983. Helgi Tomasson assumed leadership of the School after becoming artistic director of San Francisco Ballet in 1985. In 1986, Tomasson invited former San Francisco Ballet ballerina Nancy Johnson to head the School, a role she held until 1993, when he appointed Lola de Avila to the School's newly established position of associate director. De Avila left the position in 1999, at which time Gloria Govrin was appointed the School's associate director. De Avila returned to the position of associate director from 2006 to 2012.
From 2012 to 2023, Patrick Armand was appointed and headed the School as School Director.
Our faculty has danced with companies such as American Ballet Theatre, New York City Ballet, National Ballet of Cuba, The Joffrey Ballet, English National Ballet, Boston Ballet, Pennsylvania Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. Together they emphasize athleticism, exuberance, and formal technique grounded in classical training. The result is a foundation in classical ballet that celebrates individual talent and encourages the highest level of excellence.
Today, San Francisco Ballet School boasts a distinguished international staff, headed by Interim School Director Katarina Wester, a Trainee Program for advanced-level students, a dedicated student residence, and an extensive scholarship program. We’re proud to note that of the current Company, over 65 percent of the dancers received their training at the School, and many San Francisco Ballet School students have gone on to dance with professional companies nationally and internationally.
San Francisco Ballet School is located in the Chris Hellman Center for Dance which also houses the Company rehearsal facilities and SF Ballet’s administrative offices. If you have questions about attending classes at SF Ballet School, enrolling your child in a class, drop-off and pick-up protocol, or anything school-related, please use the contact information below.
San Francisco Ballet School
Chris Hellman Center for Dance
455 Franklin Street (at Fulton)
San Francisco, CA 94102
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FROM THE BAY BRIDGE AND PENINSULA
Connect to 101 North toward Golden Gate Bridge. Exit 101 North/Mission Street. Turn slight right onto Mission Street/101 North. Follow 101 North as it veers left and becomes Van Ness Avenue. Turn left on Hayes Street. Turn right on Franklin Street. The SF Ballet Building is on the left at 455 Franklin St.
FROM THE GOLDEN GATE BRIDGE
After crossing the Golden Gate Bridge, take Lombard Street exit. Follow Lombard Street to Van Ness Avenue. Turn right on Van Ness and follow it to Grove Street. Turn right on Grove Street. Turn right on Franklin Street. The SF Ballet Building is on the left at 455 Franklin St.
Getting to the School using public transportation is very easy, and given the limited availability of parking in the Civic Center neighborhood, we highly encourage you to avoid driving if possible.
IN SAN FRANCISCO
Muni Lines 49, 47, 21, & 5 all stop close to the SF Ballet Building at 455 Franklin St. For schedules call Muni (415 673 6864) and BART (650 992 2278).
OUTSIDE OF SAN FRANCISCO
The SF Ballet Building is a short walk from the Civic Center BART and MUNI station (see map below). Those patrons who rely on the elevators to enter and exit at Civic Center should exit at Powell or Van Ness Stations. For BART Schedules call 650-992-2278.
For alternate routes or more detail, visit Google Maps or 511.org.