An Insider’s Guide to Ballet Sun Valley

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Thinking of going to San Francisco Ballet’s performances in Sun Valley this summer? Here’s all you need to know to have a wonderful alfresco evening at the ballet.

San Francisco Ballet is bringing two distinct evenings of dance to Sun Valley. The first performance on July 5 is a “gala-style” evening, which means audiences can expect show-stopping dance, with shorter ballets and excerpts from beloved classics. The second performance on July 7 delves a little deeper into recently created choreography, featuring three ballets created for SF Ballet’s Unbound: A Festival of New Works. Think of the first performance as a tasting menu and the second as a three-course meal.

On Program A: Tomasson's Concerto Grosso, here with Wei Wang // © Erik Tomasson
On Program A: Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso, here with Wei Wang // © Erik Tomasson
On Program A: Act 3 Pas de Deux from Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty, here with Wona Park and Angelo Greco // © Erik Tomasson
On Program A: Act 3 Pas de Deux from Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty, here with Wona Park and Angelo Greco // © Erik Tomasson
On Program A: Gsovsky's Grand Pas Classique, here with Mathilde Froustey // © Erik Tomasson
On Program A: Gsovsky’s Grand Pas Classique, here with Mathilde Froustey // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: Welch's Bespoke, here with Sasha De Sola and Lonnie Weeks  // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: Welch’s Bespoke, here with Sasha De Sola and Lonnie Weeks // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: McIntyre's Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, here with Jennifer Stahl // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, here with Jennifer Stahl // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: Peck's Hurry Up, We're Dreaming, here with Dores André // © Erik Tomasson
On Program B: Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, here with Dores André // © Erik Tomasson

Performances are held at the Sun Valley Pavilion, an outdoor venue surrounded by emerald green lawns with the Rocky Mountains as backdrop. Attending a performance here is a quintessential summer experience—what’s better than a warm night with beautiful ballet and the sounds of an orchestra floating on a summer breeze?

Sun Valley Pavilion // Courtesy of Ballet Sun Valley

Where should you sit? Some people love to be as close to the stage as possible to catch the details of the movement, while others prefer to be further back to see the “bigger picture.” Tickets for the Pavilion’s 1,600 seats are currently available here. You can also purchase $25 lawn tickets (kids under 10 are free!). You can’t see the stage, but you can watch the performance on a giant jumbotron, and you’ll hear the award-winning SF Ballet Orchestra no matter where you sit. 

Lawn seating at the Pavilion // Courtesy of Ballet Sun Valley

Before the show, gather friends, family—and picnic fare. The lawn surrounding the Pavilion is perfect for picnicking, so get there early, spread out a blanket, unpack your favorite gourmet delicacies, and celebrate summer! Don’t feel like shopping? You can also pre-order a picnic and settle in for a wonderful evening outdoors.

Picnicking at Sun Valley Pavilion // Courtesy of Ballet Sun Valley

Ballet Sun Valley extends beyond the performances at the Pavilion. Three days of free classes for a select group of aspiring young dancers in Sun Valley will be taught by SF Ballet Dancers Sofiane Sylve, Tiit Helimets, and Kimberly Marie Olivier; Ballet Master Tina LeBlanc; SF Ballet School Faculty member Dana Genshaft; and choreographer Danielle Rowe.  

Students in Ballet Sun Valley’s Education program // Courtesy of Ballet Sun Valley

Want to learn more about dance without donning ballet slippers? The Community Library hosts two free events the morning of July 6. In the Lecture Hall, Helgi Tomasson will share stories from his distinguished career as a dancer and his 34 years as artistic director and principal choreographer of SF Ballet. In the Children’s Library, Principal Dancer Sasha De Sola will read the bilingual children’s book On Tiptoes/De Puntitas, which tells the story of her dance journey and how it helped her overcome shyness.

Insider tip: If you’re coming from out of town and need a place to stay, Ballet Sun Valley has recommendations.

 


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Introducing Ballet to Elementary School Students through Student Matinees

Each year, there’s a distinctive buzz in the Opera House as the auditorium fills with children for SF Ballet’s annual Student Matinee performances. Designed for school groups, Student Matinees, held twice a year, offer an introduction to classical and contemporary ballet to nearly 6,000 Bay Area K-12 students, many of them part of SF Ballet’s Dance in Schools and Communities (DISC) program. “We’re committed to filling a critical need for arts education in our community,” says Andrea Yannone, director of education and training at SF Ballet. “These Student Matinees are a great way to introduce children to the transformative power of creativity through the performing arts.”

 

“The ballet made me feel magical! I loved all of the music and dancing.” 
—Leonie, age 8

Student drawing after a SF Ballet Student Matinee

The 2019 Student Matinees feature excerpts from story ballets Don Quixote and The Sleeping Beauty, performed by professional SF Ballet dancers with accompaniment by the SF Ballet Orchestra, as well as a world premiere created for the SF Ballet School Trainees by choreographer Marc Brew. Brew is artistic director of AXIS Dance Company, which integrates dancers with and without physical disabilities. His new ballet quicksilver was created on and performed by SF Ballet School Trainees, the most advanced dancers at the School. “It was a real joy to work with the Trainees,” says Brew. “I wanted to open their mind to new possibilities. I was never exposed to anyone with a disability during my own training. The fact that I was in that studio with them, working with them, hopefully changed their perception of what a dancer is and what it means to be a dancer.”

“I was surprised the men were so strong.” —Sebastian, age 7

Host Madison Keesler with dancers from SF Ballet and an ASL interpreter at the January Student Matinee // © Chris Hardy

As part of both of the Student Matinee performances, students—who mainly range in age from about 7 to 12 years old—experience an open scene change to provide a peek behind-the-scenes to see what it takes to stage a ballet. SF Ballet dancer Madison Keesler is host of this year’s Student Matinees. At the January Don Quixote Student Matinee, she started by explaining the story and introducing the dancers playing the main characters. Between Act I and Act II, she asked students to cheer (loudly!) for the character that protagonist Kitri should marry: Gamache or Basilio (who received the lion’s share of the applause). Students also learned a short phrase of mime from the ballet and practiced it in their seat. Another highlight was watching how the stage crew changed the scenery between acts. “I really enjoyed showing us how they changed the scenes and it was surprising how large the stage was,” says Radka Pulliam, a SFUSD educator who attended with a group of students. “I loved how you went through the acts and told us tidbits of how they lived and performed. Having the dancer lead us through this journey was amazing and helped our students access the ballet.”

How are the shoes so cool?” —Makani, age 8

The 2019 Student Matinee of Don Quixote // © Chris Hardy

Performance day is just one part of the Student Matinee experience, which starts months prior with free professional development workshops for K-12 classroom teachers at SF Ballet.  In these workshops, teachers explore activities, lessons, and resources to share with students before and after the Student Matinee performance. All attending schools are supplied with a Study Guide, which includes activities—geared to state and national education standards—that challenge students to think about the performance and artistic process.

 

“My favorite part of the performance was when the cats went jump, jump, jump!”
 —America, age 7

Thamires Chuvas and Alexander Reneff-Olson in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty // © Erik Tomasson

Programming is designed with schoolchildren in mind—Student Matinees last 75 minutes and feature high energy performances with plenty of stagecraft. It’s a winning formula—at the Don Quixote matinee, the errant knight’s horse drew as many gasps of delight as did the ebullient dancing. The White Cat and Puss in Boots, who dance in The Sleeping Beauty, are perennial favorites. “The students who attend these performances have a great experience, and so do the dancers,” says Yannone. “Their enthusiasm and energy are contagious.”

Header Image: Scenes from a student matinee performance // © Chris Hardy

Angelo Greco, Principal Dancer, on Don Quixote

Principal Dancer Angelo Greco discusses how he first encountered Don Quixote, what he enjoys about this ballet, and his love to classical ballet.

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Mathilde Froustey and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

Principal Dancer Wei Wang on Don Quixote

Principal Dancer Wei Wang discusses his early training in Beijing, how he came to San Francisco Ballet, and the role of Basilio in Don Quixote. 

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Wei Wang and Dores André in Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming // © Erik Tomasson

Helgi Tomasson Previews the 2019 Season

Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer, Helgi Tomasson reflects on his 34 years as Artistic Director and his commitment to serving as Principal Choreographer. He comments on the upcoming 86th Repertory Season, starting with an introduction to the Company’s new and newly promoted dancers. He offers an overview of the repertory, emphasizing the success of the 2018 Unbound: Festival of New Works and the five works being reprised this season, then concludes with remarks about the current production of Don Quixote.

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Helgi Tomasson rehearsing Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty // © Erik Tomasson

Joseph Walsh, Principal Dancer, on Don Quixote

Principal Dancer Joseph Walsh chats about his career, Don Quixote, and other upcoming 2019 ballets, including several Unbound works. He also shares what a normal morning looks like and his favorite things to do in his downtime.

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Lauren Strongin and Joseph Walsh rehearsing Liam Scarlett’s new work. // © Erik Tomasson

Sasha de Sola, Principal Dancer, on Don Quixote

Principal Dancer Sasha De Sola engages in a lively discussion about her classical roles, contrasting her preparation for dancing more contemporary parts. She acknowledges solid, classically-based training for contributing to her technical achievements. She describes the challenges of dancing Kitri in Don Quixote, but emphasizes how much fun it is!

Like what you heard? Subscribe to our Meet the Artist podcast on Apple Podcasts or Google Play to access archived episodes and have new ones delivered straight to your devices!

Header image: Sasha De Sola and Aaron Robison in Tomasson’s Nutcracker  // © Erik Tomasson

In the Wings: Don Quixote Photoessay

Erik Tomasson has been San Francisco Ballet’s photographer since 2004 and has a unique perspective on the Company from his decade and a half of working with the dancers. These images, shot by Tomasson from the wings, offer a rare look behind the scenes of the Helgi Tomasson/Yuri Possokhov Don Quixote.

Dores André backstage

Don Quixote’s washbasin hat and books on the prop table

Warming up in the wings

Student performers await their entrance

A dancer in costume as a driad watches from the wings

Ellen Rose Hummel onstage in Don Quixote

Vitor Luiz onstage in Don Quixote

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Header image: Dancers watching from the wings
All images © Erik Tomasson

The Story of Don Quixote

PROLOGUE

Don Quixote is in his study, engrossed in a book about ancient chivalry. He falls asleep and dreams that he is a knight defending his ideal woman, Dulcinea. While he sleeps, Sancho Panza bursts through the door. The gluttonous Sancho has stolen a ham, and a group of exasperated housewives is pursuing him. Startled by the commotion, Don Quixote turns the angry women out of the room. An idea then comes to him: He will make Sancho his squire, and together they will set out on an adventure to defend virtue and punish those who don’t uphold the code of chivalry.

Jim Sohm and Pascal Molat in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

ACT I: A SQUARE IN BARCELONA

At a square in Barcelona, festivities and dancing are taking place. Kitri, daughter of the innkeeper, professes her love for Basilio, a barber.

Frances Chung as Kitri in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote

Kitri’s father Lorenzo spots the lovers in the crowd and separates them, insisting that Kitri will marry the wealthy, foppish nobleman Gamache. Don Quixote and Sancho Panza’s arrival in the square causes a commotion. When Don Quixote sees Kitri, he mistakes her for Dulcinea, and the two briefly dance a minuet. At the height of the merriment, Kitri and Basilio sneak off, pursued by Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Lorenzo and Gamache.


ACT I I , SCENE 1: THE SPANISH COUNTRYSIDE

Kitri and Basilio meet a group of pastoral nomads in a field of windmills and are warmly welcomed to their celebration. Kitri and Basilio hide just before Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo arrive on horseback at the same spot. Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo are invited to watch a puppet show.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Chris Hardy

During the performance, Don Quixote mistakes the puppet heroine for Dulcinea. With sword in hand, he rushes to defend her, destroying the puppet stage. Confused, he thinks a nearby windmill is a threatening giant and strikes at it. Caught by its sail, Don Quixote is hurled to the ground and falls into a deep sleep.


ACT I I , SCENE 2: THE DREAM

Don Quixote dreams he is a knight surrounded by forest nymphs and cupids; in the dream, Kitri symbolizes his ideal woman, Dulcinea.

At sunrise, Sancho Panza, Lorenzo, and Gamache arrive, interrupting his dream. Now sympathetic to the young lovers’ situation, Don Quixote attempts to lead Lorenzo and Gamache astray.


ACT I I , SCENE 3: A TAVERN

Don Quixote, Sancho Panza, Gamache, and Lorenzo finally catch up with Kitri and Basilio in a tavern.

Sarah Van Patten in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote // © Erik Tomasson

Once again Lorenzo insists Kitri accept Gamache’s proposal. In response, Basilio fakes suicide. Kitri begs Don Quixote to persuade Lorenzo let her marry Basilio—it was the young man’s final wish before his death. When Don Quixote threatens Lorenzo with his sword, he gives his consent and blesses the lovers. Instantly Basilio comes back to life.


ACT III: THE WEDDING

There is much merrymaking as the village celebrates the marriage of Kitri and Basilio. With Don Quixote as the guest of honor, the happy lovers dance for him.

Mathilde Froustey in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote. (© Erik Tomasson)

Don Quixote congratulates them, then bids farewell to all. Together with Sancho Panza, Don Quixote continues on his adventures.

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Header photo: Angelo Greco and Mathilde Froustey // © Erik Tomasson