SF Ballet Opens With Celestial Gala Next Week

Decor at last year's opening night gala
Decor at last year’s opening night gala

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

The San Francisco winter social season kick starts this evening with the Fog Design + Art Gala and next week things shift into full gear with the opening of the San Francisco Ballet. On Thursday, January 18 the ballet will host its glittering debut of the company’s 85th year. “I am very excited about this year’s theme, Celestial, which will be ever-present from the décor to the food,” Kathryn A. Huber, the opening night gala chair told Haute Living in an email. “Our amazingly creative designer, Riccardo Benavides, will bring the beauty of the night sky to City Hall, while our talented caterer, McCalls Catering & Events, will carry the theme to parts of their presentation.”


The evening begins with a reception and dinner in City Hall. Afterward, all the guests, clad in ball gowns and tuxedos, parade across Van Ness Street to the War Memorial Opera House. The performance is a two-hour celebration of dance that highlights what is to come in the repertory season. After the show, everyone returns to the Opera House, which is transformed from a formal dinner setting into a luxe lounge environment, for the after party.

Dancer Ulrik Birkkjaer, gala chair Kathy Huber and dancer Sarah van Patten at the gala benefactor party earlier this week
Dancer Ulrik Birkkjaer, gala chair Kathy Huber and dancer Sarah van Patten

Photo Credit: Jessica Monroy for Drew Altizer Photography Casting for the special program was announced today and the performance promises to delight gala goers. Jerome RobbinsIn The Night (with principal dancers Mathilde Froustey, Benjamin Freemantle, Jennifer Stahl, Tiit Helimets, Sarah Van Patten, and Luke Ingham) is followed by a series of duets that star the company’s top principal dancers. Dores André and Wei Wang will dance the Bluebird pas de deux from The Sleeping Beauty, newcomer Ana Sophia Scheller and Vitor Luiz will perform the pas de deux from Stars and Stripes, and Sasha De Sola and Angelo Greco will do the Le Corsaire pas de deux, among others.

Ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan at last year's gala
Ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan at last year’s gala

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography What’s new this year at the gala? “For the first time, we will have an exclusive VIP Lounge at the after party for our grand benefactor and benefactor ticketholders,” Huber says. “The private area will offer guests the sought-after experience of mingling with the dancers who will attend the dinner following their performance. In addition, the VIP Lounge will feature a premium bar, sushi chef, and music.”

Another look at last year's sumptuous gala decor
Another look at last year’s sumptuous gala decor

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer Along with Huber, the gala is organized by the San Francisco Ballet Auxiliary, an exclusive, invite-only group of philanthropic women. Huber was invited to join ten years ago and served as the decor chair for the 2011 opening gala. While her role then was to work side-by-side with Benavides to establish a look for the event, this year she has overseen all aspects of planning to ensure that it’s a memorable night. “I strive to be an inspirational leader and see my role as a combination of cheerleader, marketing, PR, finance, and even a touch of human resources. It is perfect for me as it combines my business background with my love for ballet,” she explains.

A tutu from The Sleeping Beauty
A tutu from The Sleeping Beauty

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography While the gala is a sensational stand alone event, it is the official start of the ballet company’s five-month season. This year, will be some thrilling, not-to-be missed performances. “With regards to the upcoming SF Ballet season, I am very much looking forward to Unbound: A Festival of New Works with 12 world premieres that have been choreographed for the company,” Huber says. “I am also excited to see The Sleeping Beauty as it should be an amazing production and has always been one of my favorite stories.” The Sleeping Beauty premieres on January 23 and runs through February 4 and will feature entirely new costumes acquired from the Royal Danish Ballet. It’s been ten years since SF Ballet performed the classic story ballet.

The 2018 programming includes two other story ballets—Frankenstein and Nijinsky, which will be performed by visiting guests, The National Ballet of Canada. Other highlights? A tribute to Jerome Robbins, works that represent New York City Ballet, and the aforementioned Unbound Festival. In an unprecedented move, artistic director Helgi Tomasson invited 12 of the world’s most innovative choreographers—Alonzo King, Arthur Pita, and Christopher Wheeldon, to name a few—to create entirely new pieces. The new works will debut at the end of the season between April 20 and May 5. Unbound cements San Francisco Ballet as one of the globe’s most forward-thinking dance companies and a champion of contemporary movement.

Tickets for the Celestial Gala and the entire San Francisco Ballet 2018 season are now on sale.