SF Ballet School Students On Stage with the Company

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Soldiers and Mice, Cupids and Shades, Snowflakes and Flowers—these are some of the roles danced by students of the San Francisco Ballet School in major productions with SF Ballet. The official school of SF Ballet, the country’s oldest classical academy, is a training ground for the Company—more than 50 percent of current SF Ballet dancers received all or part of their training at the School. The School also provides SF Ballet with a ready source of skilled child dancers needed for the major story ballets, affording the young dancers valuable performing experiences early in their training.

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine's Coppélia. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Balanchine’s Coppélia. (© Erik Tomasson)

The annual production of Nutcracker offers opportunities to many School students in Levels 1 through 8 in the party scene and the battle scene: as Snowflakes and Flowers; Ladybugs, Butterflies, and Dragonflies; and Mother Ginger’s brood of tiny Buffoons. In most repertory seasons there are roles that can be filled only by children. This season students will be seen onstage in Coppelia, Swan Lake, and Swimmer.

For the roles in Nutcracker, children must audition. For other productions, however, the roles are cast by Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson or by guest choreographers. Roles might include young citizens of Verona for Romeo & Juliet or peasant children for Giselle. Typically, the choreographer, the stager, or a ballet master will observe School classes and select students for specific parts. This past season, Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov and Ballet Master Anita Paciotti watched classes to choose boys from Levels 1 through 4 for Possokhov’s world premiere, Swimmer.

San Francisco Ballet School Students. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet School Students. (© Erik Tomasson)

The San Francisco Ballet School Trainees and upper-level students are frequently called on to supplement the corps de ballet, especially in productions such as Nutcracker, Giselle, and Swan Lake. Several Trainees fill out the ranks in “The Kingdom of the Shades” from La Bayadère, Act II, helping to create the mesmerizing opening scene, a long, slow sequence of arabesques.

“All major companies need children in the story ballets,” SF Ballet School Associate Director, Patrick Armand says. “This is what the students are waiting for—they want to perform. Training and technique are important, but we are fortunate to be able to offer them the experience of learning how to be on stage as well.”

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