The San Francisco Ballet, founded in 1933, is the oldest professional ballet company in the United States. Originally formed to train dancers for the lavish dance numbers in operas, the company has grown to achieve an international reputation for excellence.
The San Francisco Ballet continued to focus primarly on opera until 1938 when, under the direction of new choreographer William Christensen, it staged its first full-length ballet, Coppelia. This was followed the next year by Swan Lake and the first complete version of The Nutcraker produced in the US. The ballet finally split from the opera entirely in 1942.The San Francisco company began to tour in 1951 with an extensive tour along the East Coast, followed by performances in 11 Asian countries. In 1972, the Ballet finally found a permanent home at the War Memorial Opera House, where it still performs today.
Like many artistic projects, the Ballet found itself near bankruptcy in the mid-1970s. It was saved at the last minute by a local "grass-roots" effort and has never looked back.
The San Francisco Ballet Company Today
In recent years, the San Francisco Ballet has forged relationships with other major performing arts centers, such as the Kennedy Center for the Arts in Washington and New York's City Center. These relationships allow for the sharing of talent as well as the opportuntity to perform in these other venues.The Ballet continues to expand its repetoire and presents over 100 performances each year. The company's extensive repetoire includes works by Mark Thomas, Rudolph Nureyev, George Balanchine, Jerome Robbins, and many others.
The company under the direction of Helgi Tomasson since 1985, includes two dozen principal dancers and soloists as well as a corps de ballet and a dedicated orchestra. The Ballet only uses young dancers from the company's School of Ballet for performances, such as The Nutcracker.
The Ballet School
The San Francisco Ballet operates a school to train gifted young dancers to perform in the Ballet company and other professional companies around the country and the world. The School is an intergral part of the Ballet and dates to the company's founding in 1933.The Ballet also sponsors basic and advanced dance education for more casual students and adults. The continuing education program hosts lectures by artists and dance experts as well as dance performances in the community.
Attending a San Francisco Ballet Performance
The Ballet performs at the War Memorial Opera House at 301 Van Ness in the Civic Center and is easily accessible by BART and by busses along Market Ave. and Van Ness.Dress at the Ballet varies from casual chic to black tie, with everything in between. The best advice is to wear what makes you comfortable. You're sure to see someone else there dressed as you are.
Tickets are available from the War Memorial Opera House box office, via the Ballet's website, and through various ticket brokers, such as Ticketmaster. There are also, sometimes, same day discounted tickets available at the TIX booth on the Powell Street side of Union Square. Subscription tickets are offered combining all or selected performances. Discounts on subscription tickets are offered to students and seniors.