Party On: The S.F. Ballet Gala Leaves Guests Spellbound

Kicking off a banner year, the company toasted past achievements and more milestones to come at its opening night soiree



San Francisco Ballet and its beloved artistic director, Helgi Tomasson, launched the 2020 repertory season with a glamorous opening night gala on Thursday, Jan. 16, at the San Francisco Opera House, with supporters Paul and Nancy Pelosi, Dede Wilsey, Bob Hill, Ivy Getty, Shannon Getty and other notables joining the celebration.

The evening — which featured the tantalizing theme of “Spellbound” and winter-chic decor by J. Riccardo Benavides — began with a cocktail reception and black-tie fundraising dinner at San Francisco City Hall, then migrated to the opera house for performances of the season’s highlights before winding down with a lively after-party attended by principal dancers Yuan Yuan Tan, Benjamin Freemantle and Mathilde Froustey, in addition to new corps de ballet member Bianca Teixeira.

“This is a very exciting season, with classics we all love, like Cinderella, as well as challenging new works that signal future directions in dance,’ said Barbara Brown, a lifelong ballet enthusiast who was in attendance. Other guests included Mourad Lalou, Yurie and Carl Pascarella, O.J. and Gary Shansby, Carolyn Chang and Mary Beth Shimmon.

The 2020 season will showcase two world premieres: Trey McIntyre’s The Big Hunger on Feb. 13, and British talent Cathy Marston’s Mrs. Robinson on March 24. The latter was inspired by the 1967 film The Graduate (itself based on Charles Webb’s 1963 American novella by the same name) and is a retelling from the perspective of the titular character, played in the movie by actor Anne Bancroft.

The late legend George Balanchine’s full-length masterpiece, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, opens March 6, returning to the company after a 35-year absence. Additional milestones S.F. Ballet will celebrate this season are Tan’s record-breaking 25 years with the company and Helgi Tomasson’s 35th year as artistic director and principal choreographer. (Tomasson is the world’s longest-serving sole artistic director of a major ballet company.)

S.F. Ballet executive director Kelly Tweeddale, who was enjoying her first opening night gala with the institution that evening, emphasized that commissioning new work remains essential. “We don’t know who the next Balanchine will be, but we have an obligation to give the new choreographers, the new composers, and the dancers the chance to put their mark on the art form,” she said. “As a company, it is our job to create.”















Feature image: SAN FRANCISCO BALLET dancer YUAN YUAN TAN and YURIE PASCARELLA. Photo by Drew Altizer.


Jan. 24, 2019

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