San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Is Filled With Passion

Inside City Hall during the opening night gala of the San Francisco Ballet

Photo Credit: Andrew Caulfield for Drew Altizer Photography

“What a magical night!” “Wasn’t it fabulous?” “I had the best time!” These are quotes from a couple of texts and emails I received yesterday. All were about Wednesday evening’s opening night gala of the San Francisco Ballet. It was a sensational night, and not a bad thing could be said about the debut of the acclaimed ballet’s 86th season.

Claire Kostic and Ann Baer

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Gala chair Claire Stewart Kostic, event stylist J. Riccardo Benavides, and dinner chair Lydia Bergman used the theme—This is Passion—to guide their decor and culinary decisions. Upon entry to the pre-performance festivities, which started promptly at City Hall at 5 p.m., guests were greeted by a dizzying array of visual effects. A hallway of mirrors, with purple lights, led to a screen that showed video of dancers. With billowing smoke and a kaleidoscope effect, the video was captivating.

Decor at the reception

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Elsewhere, City Hall was flush with red lights, round arrangements of flowers in Valentine’s Day colors—reds, pinks, and purples, and life-size mirror silhouettes of dancers. More eye-catching movement videos were projected on the domed ceiling of the central rotunda. Looking up the stairs at the familiar dancers appearing as if they were underwater was a breathtaking experience.

The tables set for dinner

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

A quartet of trumpeters heralded the start of dinner and the elegantly clad ballet lovers, in ball gowns and sequin sheaths found their seats at the tables. Dinner was a delicious three-course feast that included a little gem salad with green goddess dressing and roasted winter mushrooms, butter poached Maine lobster with celery root puree, and passion fruit and chocolate mousses with chocolate roulade. Gloria Ferrer provided the sparkling wine, Chardonnay, and Pinot Noir; Lillet paired with the dessert.

Dede Wilsey

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Next, the dinner guests paraded across Van Ness Street to the War Memorial Opera House for the show. Carl Pascarella, the chair of the board, welcomed the crowd to the theater before presenting Dede Wilsey with a special medal. Wilsey was honored for her tireless work and generous donations to support ballet. She appeared on stage, resplendent in a silver and white sparkly gown, looking every bit like the ballet’s fairy godmother.

Angelo Greco and Misa Kuranaga

Photo Credit: @misakuranaga

The first act opened with an excerpt from Etudes, danced by Sasha de Sola and Aaron Robison with soloists and corp members. The audience didn’t get enough of Mathilde Froustey and Tiit Helimets—the duo danced a short pas de due from Handel that was flawless and graceful. Froustey is dancing the role of Kitri in tonight’s opening performance of Don Quixote, so she needed to rest up. The highlight of the first act was Soirees Musicales with guest artist, Misa Kuranaga from the Boston Ballet, and SF’s Angelo Greco. Kuranaga danced with wild passion and carefree abandon. Her pirouettes were fast and paired with Greco—who is arguably the hottest male dancer at the company right now—the effect was dazzling.

Dores André and Wei Wang in Peck’s “Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming”

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

The second act started with a perfectly executed performance of the pas de deux from Rubies with Ana Sophia Scheller and Vitor Luiz. The best performance of the evening was next: the world premiere of UnSaid by choreographer Danielle Rowe that featured Sofiane Sylve and Aaron Robison. Sylve was memorizing, and there was a moving emotional quality to her dancing that had the audience on the edge of their seats. The final act of the night was Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming, an excerpt of the Unbound Festival. Wearing tennis shoes, the dancers ran and jumped across the stage as if they were flying.

The scene at the after party

Photo Credit: Olivia Hsu Decker

Guests excited by the thrilling performance and inspired by the incredible dancing, headed back to City Hall to get their own groove on at the after party. The space was transformed into a night club like vibe with lounge areas and three dance floors: one with a band, another with a silent disco, and a third with a DJ violinist. Stations overflowing with dumplings, ham and cheese sandwiches, and decadent desserts beckoned to the hungry crowd. The party went on till the wee hours of the night and the passion for the ballet and the upcoming season was clearing ignited.


Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Paul Pelosi, Marlene Tomasson and Helgi Tomasson

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Scott Connors and Christine Leong Conners

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

Carolyn Chang

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Laura Clifford and Elaine Kartalis

Photo Credit: Jessica Monroy for Drew Altizer Photography

Kelsey Lamond

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Charlotte Shultz and George Shultz

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

OJ Shansby

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Mathilde Froustey

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Yuan Yuan Tan

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Michael Mauze and Alison Mauze

Photo Credit: Susana Bates for Drew Altizer Photography

Claudia Ross, Keith Wetmore, Diane Adams, Andrew Hinek and Joshua Morgan

Photo Credit: Devlin Shand for Drew Altizer Photography

Chrisa Pappas

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

Yurie Pascarella and Frances Chung

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer