China Tour Diary: Week 2


The second week of the Company’s tour to China was spent in Shanghai, performing at the Shanghai International Arts Festival. It was a homecoming for Shanghai native, Yuan Yuan Tan, who was featured in a gala evening that celebrated her 20 years to date with SF Ballet. Here she tells us about the highlights of the final week of the tour.

Monday, October 26
One of the fun things I did in Shanghai was give a lecture at Fudan University’s Center for American Studies. I think it’s so great that most people who attended were students who didn’t know a lot about ballet or dance.

I talked a bit about how most people don’t notice the challenges associated with dancing because ballet seems so effortless. But despite the obstacles, it’s been worth it for me to follow my heart. I encouraged everyone to fight for their passion.


Yuan Yuan Tan giving her lecture at Fudan University

Wednesday, October 28
Somehow I managed to squeeze in a press conference between rehearsals and classes! The theater invited [SF Ballet Artistic Director] Helgi Tomasson, [Executive Director] Glenn McCoy, and me to talk about what the Company’s performances in Shanghai and how I felt about coming back to my hometown. I was so excited to see so many major TV stations in attendance–that means more and more Chinese people are interested in ballet. Read More »

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China Tour Diary: Week 1


SF Ballet just wrapped up the first week of its China tour and the Company is now in Shanghai, preparing for the Shanghai International Arts Festival performances on October 30 and 31. Throughout the week, we talked to Soloist James Sofranko and new Corps de Ballet Member Jahna Frantziskonis to hear about their personal experiences of SF Ballet’s China Tour:

Sunday, October 18
Jahna: I’m very excited to be in Beijing after such a long flight! I’ve never been anywhere in Asia, so everything feels new and fresh. It’s been interesting to compare what I know about Asia to what I’m actually seeing.


Earlier today, I went to the Great Wall. I’ve always wanted to go, and there were multiple moments where I was just in awe. It was so surreal to be somewhere so rich in history.

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Combing the Archives of the Museum of Performance + Design

 Muriel Maffre was a principal dancer with San Francisco Ballet from 1990-2007. After retiring, she received a B.A. in Performing Arts from St. Mary’s College of Moraga and an M.A. in Museum Studies from John F. Kennedy University. She is currently the executive director at the Museum of Performance + Design in San Francisco. For this blog entry, Muriel combed the archives and uncovered some fascinating objects related to the origins of SF Ballet’s history.

Aside from being San Francisco Ballet’s official archive, the Museum of Performance + Design is one of the largest performing arts collections in the nation. Started more than 67 years ago by Russell Hartley, a dancer and designer with San Francisco Ballet, the collection now hosts about 3.5MM materials on performance and theatrical design! Three of MP+D’s most important collections meaningfully trace the history of San Francisco Ballet to its origins: the Oukrainsky Collection, which was acquired by Russell himself; the Lew Christensen and Gisella Caccialanza Papers; and the N.R. Farbman Photographic Collection.

Serge Oukrainsky (Born Leonid Orlay de Carva) was a dancer and choreographer of Ukrainian aristocratic origins (Serge’s stage name means “from the Ukraine”) with meaningful affiliation to San Francisco and the history of ballet in the U.S. As an émigré family, the Orlay de Carvas settled in Paris where the young Serge studied painting and then dance with Russian maître de ballet and choreographer Ivan Clustine. Oukrainsky’s encounters with the revolutionary Ballets Russes at Paris’ Théâtre du Châtelet in 1910 and then New York’s Metropolitan Opera five years later, influenced his taste for avant-garde and non-western styles–at times he created solos for himself that incorporated dancing on pointe with bare feet!

Ballets Russes program book cover (1915) The Ballets Russes Collection, Museum of Performance + Design

Ballets Russes program book cover (1915)
The Ballets Russes Collection, Museum of Performance + Design

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Faculty Spotlight: Jeffrey Lyons


Jeffrey Lyons joined the SF Ballet School faculty in 1999. He has taught at all levels of the School, and in recent years started teaching adult open classes, as well the Community Scholarship Program boys’ classes. Additionally, he is the School’s liaison to the Dance in Schools and Communities (DISC) program, and in this capacity, scouts for talent in the San Francisco public elementary schools and community centers served by DISC. Lyons is often called upon as a ballet master to rehearse children for Company productions such as Nutcracker and Coppélia, and he serves as the ballet master for visiting repetiteurs who set ballets on the School’s advanced students for Student Showcase and other performances.

Scenes from SF Ballet School's 2015 Scholarship class. (© Chris Hardy)

Jeffrey Lyons working with students SF Ballet School’s 2015 scholarship class. (© Chris Hardy)

Why do you think you’re successful at teaching such a wide variety of classes and students?
Planning is important; I don’t think about it as doing it by myself. The teachers check-in about once a week to talk about what we are working on in the classes for each level which helps to ensure that we’re all on the same page. Also, being able to switch from a Level 8 corps de ballet class to a Level 7 pas de deux class–or a children’s technique class–takes a brain shift. So planning the classes ahead of time is essential.

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