Celebrating Leonid Yakobson at the 92nd Street Y


This summer, the San Francisco Ballet Trainees became part of a unique project to bring to life the forgotten dances of the legendary Soviet choreographer, Leonid Yakobson. Yakobson, a choreographer for the Kirov and Bolshoi Ballets from the 1930s until his death in 1971, championed risky modernist work, including Rodin–a suite of seven pas de deux inspired by Auguste Rodin’s sculptures of love.


San Francisco Ballet became the first American company to perform Yakobson’s work when Yakobson’s widow Irina, who taught at SF Ballet for many years in the ’80s and ’90s, staged five of them on the Company in 1989.

Reaching across generations this summer, SF Ballet School Trainee Program Assistant (and former Principal Dancer) Wendy Van Dyck, who was part of the original Rodin cast, relearned two of the pas de deux at a re-staging conducted by Boston Ballet.

When Wendy returned to San Francisco, she set The Eternal Spring and The Kiss, the first two portraits of innocent and beginning love, on the Trainees. On October 16, two of the Trainees–Natasha Sheehan and Davide Occhipinti–will perform them on the “Fridays at Noon” series at the 92nd Street Y in New York, as part of a lecture/demonstration tribute to Yakobson that I will be leading.

Janice Ross is a Stanford professor and author of a new biography of Yakobson, Like A Bomb Going Off: Ballet As Resistance in Soviet Russia, published by Yale University Press this year.

This project is made possible thanks to Catherine Ryan Slavonia and Mark Slavonia for their generous and visionary support. 

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Joanna Berman Hosts World Ballet Day LIVE



On Thursday, October 1, San Francisco Ballet will once again participate in World Ballet Day LIVE–an event that includes 23 hours of live broadcasting from five of the world’s leading ballet companies including The Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, The Royal Ballet, The National Ballet of Canada, and SF Ballet. The broadcast will include behind-the-scenes footage of class, rehearsals, interviews with artists, performances, and a preview of the season to come.

This year, the host of the event will be former SF Ballet Principal Dancer Joanna Berman, who danced with the Company from 1984-2002. Here, Joanna talks about the upcoming event and her role as host of the live broadcast.


Joanna Berman

Q: How did you become host of World Ballet Day LIVE?

A: [SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer] Helgi [Tomasson] asked me to participate and I was delighted. SF Ballet is a special place for me and because I’m so busy as a freelancer teacher, I don’t get to spend as much time there, so it’ll be a real treat to watch this spectacular company in action.

Q: Why do think this event was so popular when it was done for the first time last year?
A:  I’ve always been fascinated by the inner workings of ballet companies, so for me, watching it last year was like being a kid in a candy store! I think it’s thrilling for audiences to have the opportunity to peek behind the scenes and see how five different, world-renowned ballet companies structure their classes and rehearsals. And while preparation may be slightly different, dance is also a universal language and an art form anyone can understand, so there are no barriers, no matter which company you’re watching.

Q: Why should people should tune into World Ballet Day LIVE again?
A: Aside from seeing these wonderful companies at work, I know that SF Ballet in particular, is offering some very special interviews and programming that you won’t want to miss. I hope everyone tunes in!

For more information on World Ballet Day LIVE, visit worldballetday.com.


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World Ballet Day LIVE Company Class with Ricardo Bustamante


With the live stream of World Ballet Day LIVE fast approaching on October 1, we talked to Ballet Master and Assistant to the Artistic Director Ricardo Bustamante, who will teach Company class during the event. Here, he tells us a little about the importance of Company class:

What is the purpose of the daily Company class?
Class is all about training and developing skills that help you stay mentally and physically in shape. Just like in any sport, dancers need to practice, and daily class keeps them supple and strong. The 75-minute class allows dancers to excel and push themselves, while preparing for a long day of rehearsals or performances ahead (sometimes both).

Esteban Hernandez in Company class on World Ballet Day (© Erik Tomasson)

Esteban Hernandez in Company class on World Ballet Day LIVE (© Erik Tomasson)

How does the progression of class build?
Having been a dancer myself, I know what the dancers are looking for. I always start out barre focusing on warming up the ankles and opening up the joints, with an emphasis on musicality, rhythm, and structure that will serve everyone for the remainder of the day. I am always aware of the works that the dancers are rehearsing that day and tailor my class to those styles. Read More »

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Joseph & Luke: Taking Benvolio & Tybalt to the Big Screen


On Thursday, September 24 SF Ballet kicks off the new cinema series, Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance, with Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet.


SF Ballet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet (© Erik Tomasson)

Shown at select cinemas nationwide, the screenings will feature the full production in HD, along with exclusive behind-the-scenes footage and interviews. Here Principal Dancer Joseph Walsh (Benvolio) and Luke Ingham (Tybalt), talk about what it’s like to be part of this inaugural project:

Have you ever been part of a project like this before?
LI: Not exactly, but similar: I was in two live broadcasts when I was with Australian Ballet–Nutcracker and Swan Lake.
JW: Same with me, when I was with Houston Ballet, we did a broadcast that aired on local European channels but not on American TV.

What was the process of filming Romeo & Juliet like?
LI: We probably practiced the fight scenes choreography more than we normally would.
JW: The final broadcast used footage from two different performances, so we had a safety net if there was a slip-up.
LI: Actually, the second performance of the fight scene was better. In the first, our timing was off…(laughs)
JW: …I dropped my dagger, followed by a swipe from Luke.
LI: By the time the second show was taped, we were prepared and more relaxed because we knew exactly what to expect with the cameras. Read More »

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