The 2016 Season marks the 40th anniversary of the SF Ballet Orchestra. As Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson recently remarked, “The finest dance can only happen with the support of an equally world-class orchestra.” To celebrate our world-class musicians, we have introduced you to various members of the Orchestra throughout the season and today, we’d like to introduce Principal Violist Yi Zhou.
Zhou began playing viola at age 12, in his hometown of Beijing. After seven years, he switched to the viola because of its “rich tone, more human voice,” he says. Pitched a fifth lower than the violin, the viola has “a slightly bigger sound, and the bow technique is different.” Playing it requires being sensitive to other instruments, he says; from his mid-orchestra chair “one ear hears the first violin and one ear hears the cello. It’s like playing chamber music.”
Yi Zhou (© Chris Hardy)
A former SF Ballet principal dancer, Tina LeBlanc began her career dancing with the Joffrey Ballet before joining the Company in 1992. She is often praised for her superb footwork in Balanchine ballets and at one point was called “a portrait of quiet perfectionism” by the San Francisco Chronicle. In 2009—after 27 years of dancing—she retired from SF Ballet and joined the faculty of SF Ballet School.
Tina LeBlanc and students in class during San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Session. (© Erik Tomasson)
How did you transition from a professional dancer to full-time faculty?
I always had opportunities to teach, starting from the time I was a student at Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet (CPYB). When I became a professional, I continued to teach at home and as a guest at other schools, so I always had in mind that I wanted to teach. When I was pregnant with my second child, Helgi [Tomasson] and I started a dialogue about my future. I made it clear at that point that I would like to teach in the School when the time came to retire. In my last year dancing in the company, we revisited that idea and it was agreed that I would start teaching in the summer course, one month after retiring.
For this production of Onegin, Santo Loquasto redesigned the costumes from what was originally created by Jurgen Rose, who did the original costumes in 1965. Santo chose to redesign them because the material was fragile, and actually deteriorating!
Corps de ballet costumes from Onegin.
I personally have had a long relationship with Santo that goes back to 22 years! He’s famous for layers and using lots of different fabrics to create layering on bodices and on tutus – he’s used this method for the Onegin costumes, too. He’s got multiple layers of net on the skirt, with beautiful embroidered lace and metallic thread. He uses organza underneath. The silhouette of the dress is very flattering! Santo kept the palette similar to the original design, but wanted the look to be more authentic; he wanted them to be more historically accurate.
John Cranko (1927–1973) was a celebrated choreographer of the mid-20th century who is credited with making Stuttgart Ballet one of the finest classical troupes in Europe. Born in South Africa, he trained with Cape Town Ballet School and created his first work, The Soldier’s Tale, for Cape Town Ballet Club in 1945. That same year he moved to London and began training at Sadler’s Wells School and was soon offered a place at Sadler’s Wells Theatre Ballet, the precursor of The Royal Ballet. Within just four years, Cranko was named the company’s resident choreographer. He was soon in demand internationally, also making works for the New York City Ballet, Paris Opera Ballet, and La Scala in Milan.
Maria Kochetkova, Pascal Molat in Cranko’s Onegin. (© Erik Tomasson)