Q&A with Yohan Stegli About Working with SF Ballet School Students

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Every year, SF Ballet fans eagerly await the SF Ballet School’s Student Showcase, hoping to catch the next generation of ballet stars. Part of the fun is seeing how these students adapt to different ballets like John Neumeier’s Yondering, a highlight of this year’s Showcase.

2016 marks the 20th anniversary of Yondering since its creation, and about 30 students have been cast to perform the work. Shortly after the Showcase performances in late May, five Trainees will travel to Hamburg, Germany to join a blended cast from Canada’s National Ballet School, Houston Ballet Academy, National Ballet Academy of Amsterdam, Paris Opera Ballet School, The Royal Ballet School, and The School of Hamburg Ballet for a gala performance at the Hamburg Opera House.

Yohan Stegli rehearses Neumeier's Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

Yohan Stegli rehearses Neumeier’s Yondering.
(© Erik Tomasson)

Yohan Stegli from The Hamburg Ballet was tasked with setting this milestone work, so we sat down with him to learn more about what it was like working with SF Ballet School.

Why were you chosen by John Neumeier (artistic director of The Hamburg Ballet) to be the repetiteur for Yondering for SF Ballet School?
I think John chose me because of my experience. I was part of the original cast in Hamburg in 1995, and I taught Yondering to the students at Canada’s National Ballet School. I also assisted [Principal Ballet Master] Kevin Haigen by teaching the ballet to students at the Paris Opera Ballet School.

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier's Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier’s Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

What was your first impression of SF Ballet School?
I was very impressed by the wonderful building SF Ballet School shares with the Company; everything is made to serve the artist and creation of dances. As I started working with the students, I could tell that they were well-prepared and open to the new work I came to share.

What was the most difficult part of your job? Were you pleased with the results at the end of your two weeks?
The difficult part for me was to decide who from this group of young, talented artists would go on stage first, so I tried to be as fair as possible so that each one could take something valuable from this experience.

Yondering is a long ballet and unfortunately my time was limited, but I felt a great deal of investment and respect for the work coming from the dancers. We managed on the last day to have a wonderful first run through!

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier's Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier’s Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

Regarding the Yondering 20th Anniversary Celebration in Hamburg: What do you anticipate will be the most challenging aspect? What are you most looking forward to?
I’m not at all worried about the idea of putting on a ballet with students from seven schools! We share a common language—dance—that doesn’t need words to be explained. It’s our passion that will magically unify all these young artists, and together they will create great memories and develop friendships that will last forever. Also, I am excited to see Yondering with live music for the first time, sung by one of the most famous and wonderful American baritones, Thomas Hampson.

I am extremely grateful for the invitation to come to San Francisco, and I was so inspired by the work of Patrick Armand and his team. I am glad to see that we share the same values. I also had the privilege to see SF Ballet on stage; thank you for those wonderful performances!

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier's Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

SF Ballet School students in Neumeier’s Yondering. (© Erik Tomasson)

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