An Insider’s Guide to Ballet Sun Valley




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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Justin Peck on Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming

Justin Peck, inspired by the light of San Francisco, crafted an ever-changing dreamscape in Hurry Up We’re Dreaming, set to music of the electronic group M83. Here he discusses creating this ballet for the 2018 Unbound festival of New Works. 



Justin Peck (© Ryan Pfluger)


Justin Peck is Resident Choreographer and a Soloist Dancer with New York City Ballet (NYCB). Peck joined NYCB in 2006 and was promoted to Soloist in 2013. He began choreographing in 2009 at the New York Choreographic Institute. In 2014, after the creation of Everywhere We Go, Peck was appointed Resident Choreographer of NYCB. He has created more than 30 ballets, which have been performed by Paris Opera Ballet, San Francisco Ballet, Miami City Ballet, Pacific Northwest Ballet, LA Dance Project, Dutch National Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet, Houston Ballet, and Pennsylvania Ballet. In 2014, Peck was the subject of the documentary Ballet 422, which followed him as he created Paz de la Jolla, NYCB’s 422nd original dance. Peck choreographed the 2018 Broadway revival of Carousel, for which he was awarded the 2018 Tony Award for Best Choreography.  In addition, Peck choreographed the feature film Red Sparrow, and will be creating new choreography for the upcoming film remake of West Side Story, directed by Steven Spielberg. His Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes won the Bessie Award for Outstanding Production in 2015. Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming from the 2018 Unbound festival was Peck’s second work created for SF Ballet; his first was In the Countenance of Kings.

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Your Ultimate Guide to Kaleidoscope

What is it? Three distinct takes on the classical idiom to three musical masterpieces.

Who’s it for? Anyone who loves going to the symphony, seeing elite athletes compete, or watching romantic movies.


Sasha De Sola and Hansuke Yamamoto in Balanchine’s Divertimento #15. Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? Divertimento No. 15 may be a pretty tutu ballet, but it’s anything but stuffy. This sparkling masterpiece—choreographed in 1956 by 20th-century genius George Balanchine—features five principal women, three principal men, and a corps de ballet of eight. Keenly attuned to its music, this ballet showcases its dancers, highlighting their technique, musicality, and the pure joy of dance.

What am I hearing? Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s Divertimento No. 15, composed in 1777, plus a cadenza by John Coleman, added in the 1960s. Balanchine considered this piece the finest divertimento Mozart ever wrote, and this 1956 version was his second attempt to choreograph to this music.

What should I look for? Note the solos for the principal women and one principal man—Balanchine made this ballet for some of his favorite dancers and each of these variations on a theme showcases something unique about their personalities and technique. Also note the numbers games he plays. Like Mozart’s music, which exemplifies the clarity, balance, and formality of classical style, this ballet moves its dancers in pairs and threes to create a sense of symmetry and proportion.


San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Millepied’s Appassionata // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? An intimate exploration of love and passion created by LA Dance Project director Benjamin Millepied. First created for the Paris Opera Ballet, where Millepied was director from 2014 to 2016, this ballet features three couples who fall in and out of love over the course of its 30 minutes.

What am I hearing? Ludwig von Beethoven’s Piano Sonata No. 23 in F minor, commonly known as the Appassionata. Fiendishly difficult to play, this sonata is explosive, volatile, and impassioned—a stark contrast to the sunny clarity of Mozart’s Divertimento.

What should I look for? The heart of this ballet is in the central pas de deux set to the andante. This romantic interlude interrupts the frenetic pace set in the opening allegro and transforms the emotional energy of the ballet.


Dores André and Joseph Walsh in Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming // © Erik Tomasson

What am I seeing? Inspired in part by walking through San Francisco, Peck’s new ballet, Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, crafts an evolving dreamscape to an album by electronic music group M83. Oh, and did we mention it’s danced in sneakers? Although a ballet choreographer—look for how his dancers move through classical shapes—Peck has been experimenting of late with choreographing not in pointe shoes, but in sneakers. It’s a choice that changes the dancers’ relationship to weight and the floor, grounding them in a way that seems freshly modern.

What am I hearing? Excerpts from Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an album by French electronic music project M83. Written when M83 creator Anthony Gonzalez moved to Los Angeles, this album was what Peck found himself listening to when he was visiting SF in 2015.

What should I look for? Look for the three duets and how they differ from one another. And for how soloists appear and disappear within the greater mass, suggesting not just a community, but a whole world of inspiration and dream.

To the Pointe: Kaleidoscope

Join SF Ballet’s Jennie Scholick, PhD to learn all about Program 2: Kaleidoscope. From George Balanchine’s classical Divertimento no. 15, to Benjamin Millepied’s romantic Appassionata, to Justin Peck’s contemporary Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, this program has something for everyone.

Header Image: Dores André and Joseph Walsh in Peck’s Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming  // © Erik Tomasson