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San Francisco Ballet

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The San Francisco Ballet, Photo courtesy of New York Public Library About

America's oldest classical company, the San Francisco Ballet was founded in 1933 as an adjunct of the San Francisco Opera. The first directors were Adolph Bolm and Serge Oukrainsky. With the appointment of Willam Christensen as company director in 1938 and the arrival in 1940 both of his brother Harold to direct the school and his brother Lew to dance the role of Siegfried in Swan Lake, a new and defining phase in the company's history opened. For the next several decades the destiny of the San Francisco Ballet lay in the hands of Christensens. Lew served as director from 1951 to 1973, during which time Balanchine's neoclassical influence was paramount. This waned in the following decade, when Michael Smuin returned to the company and joined Lew as co-director: the choreographic accent now was on youth. Lew died in 1984, and the following year Helgi Tomasson, a former New York City Ballet principal, was brought in to replace Smuin. Under Tomasson the company has gained an international profile, while striking an artistic balance between the classics and works by contemporary trendsetters such as William Forsythe. www.sfballet.org

Pictured above: The San Francisco Ballet in Helgi Tomasson's Le Quattro Stagioni (1993). Janice Ross writes that Tomasson's tenure as artistic director has "created a new company identity that fuses the American attributes of speed and energized attack with the elegance and technical purity of older European ballet traditions."(Photograph from the Dance Division, New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, Astor, Lenox, and Tilden Foundations.) 




Excerpts from Filling Station, choreographed and performed by Lew Christensen with Ballet Caravan (1938), was a seminal ballet with an American theme and setting. Lew would go on to be director of San Francisco Ballet, the nation's oldest classical company.


 Read an essay by Dr. Janice L. Ross -- Selected Resources