Ballerina Yuan Yuan Tan On The Upcoming Season

Yuan Yuan Tan

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

The San Francisco Ballet’s 86th season opens this Wednesday with a spectacular gala dinner and exceptional performance. Star principal, Yuan Yuan Tan, arguably the best dancer in the company, will dance with Carlo Di Lanno in a piece by the choreographer in residence Yuri Possokhov. During the next couple of months, Tan will perform in one of the company’s three story ballets, John Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid, which she last danced in 2011 and also the Shostakovich Trilogy, which she is looking forward to. In anticipation of the new year and fabulous ballet to come, we caught up with Tan as she prepares to start the season. Here is what she had to say.

Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno in Liang’s “Letting Go”

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

On how she prepares for the season: “Getting ready is partly take care of yourself. We have to get enough rest because we are going to have a long day every day for rehearsals and performances. Priority number one is that you take care of yourself. Then, mentally, to not overthink—just day-by-day, go for it.

On her pre-performance rituals: “I like to be very quiet. I don’t like to talk to people before I go on stage. People get ready mentally differently. Some people start talking lots, some dancers are very quiet, or some people do whatever, but for me I need it to be very quiet.”

Tan at the after party of the 2018 ballet opening gala

Photo Credit: Drew Altizer

On her relationship with choreographers: “Sometimes the dancers can get inspired by the choreographers or vice versa, the choreographer can get inspired by dancers. The connection is very close; I think because you use your body to tell the story of the choreographer’s work.

On the Barbie doll that was made of her: They did just one Chinese ballerina Barbie doll, and it was me. They approached me. They asked what my favorite role is—I have a lot of favorite parts in ballet, but Swan Lake happened to be my first full-length ballet role, so that is what they went with.

Photo Credit: © Erik Tomasson

On advice to young dancers: Be patient and always work hard. Then, don’t give up easily.

On her retirement plans: Everybody has to retire but right now I’m just too happy to be on stage.