The San Francisco Ballet’s La Grande Fête Makes an Impassioned Return

This year the annual fundraising gala was dedicated to Ukraine



San Francisco Ballet’s annual fundraiser, La Grande Fête, took place Thursday, March 24, beneath the Beaux-Arts rotunda at City Hall and at the War Memorial Opera House. The event, which benefits the institution’s artistic and educational programs, was dedicated to the people of Ukraine.

An image of the Ukrainian flag projected on the gold silk stage curtain gave the fundraiser — the first ballet event since Covid — a sense of gravitas. “Three of the San Francisco Ballet’s longtime choreographers and other collaborators are Ukrainian, with family in Ukraine,” explained longtime artistic director Helgi Tomasson, for whom this will be the final season at helm of the company. “We stand with them.”



Before the concert started, the 3,000-strong audience rose quietly as the orchestra played the national anthem of Ukraine. The superbly planned concert then offered excerpts from both new additions and classics of the repertoire. “This is a very emotional evening,” noted Françoise Skurman.  “As Yuan Yuan Tan danced the pas de deux from Swan Lake, you could feel a tremor throughout the audience.”



Among other ballet lovers in attendance were Nancy and Paul Pelosi, Dede Wilsey with Alexis and Trevor Traina, Akiko Yamazaki and Jerry Yang, Carl and Yurie Pascarella, Suzanne Tucker with Timothy Marks, Komal Shah, Allison Speer, Barbara Brown and Andrew Skurman.



The joy of seeing friends was poignant. “I’m proud to see San Francisco’s cultural and philanthropic lives coming back,” said Speer, admiring Trevor Traina’s vintage cufflinks, designed with yellow and blue sapphires, reminiscent of the Ukrainian flag.



After the program at the Opera House, guests in vividly colored evening attire and black tie dashed back across fog-swept Van Ness Avenue to City Hall for dinner. (All guests were required to be vaccinated, boosted and newly tested.) They were joined by post-performance dancers whose creative costumes expressed a vibrant future for the ballet — aptly so, as the fundraiser was a triumph.


Feature image:


March 29, 2022

Discover more CULTURE news.

Receive Updates

No spam guarantee.

Stay Up To Date

Subscribe to our weekly emails for the hottest openings, latest parties and in-depth interviews with the people putting California Style on the map.