World Ballet Day, #5 San Francisco Ballet and the Wrap Up

In nine months Helgi Tomasson will celebrate his 30th year as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet.

I think only John Neumeier and Alicia Alonso have beaten that incredible run.

Tomasson, soon to turn 72, was subdued in the San Francisco segment and shared the spotlight with the ebullient Christopher Stowell, the company’s new ballet master and assistant to the artistic director.

Stowell was a dancer at the San Francisco Ballet for 16 years before moving to Oregon Ballet Theatre as artistic director and then to San Francisco again.

Where, I wonder, is Stowell’s predecessor, Bruce Sansom, the former principal dancer at the Royal Ballet?

Class was taught by the dynamic Felipe Diaz, a former soloist with the San Francisco Ballet.

Among the crowd in what looked like the smallest studio seen on World Ballet Day was the Australian, Luke Ingham, recently promoted to the rank of principal in San Francisco.

The footage focused on rehearsals of Don Quixote, in particular the vision scene in which Sofiane Sylve danced as the Queen of the Dryads and Maria Kochetkova was Kitri.

The principals, Vanessa Zahorian and Carlos Quenedit, rehearsed Tomasson’s interpolated gypsy pas de deux from Act II, and Frances Chung and Davit Karapetyan were stunning in a rehearsal of the wedding pas de deux in Act III.

In a separate interview, Kochetkova spoke modestly of her life in dance.

Born in Russia, she was an apprentice at the Royal Ballet and a dancer with English National Ballet before finding her home in San Francisco.

The July 2014 edition of Dance Europe has an interview with Kochetkova that reveals just how much fortitude she has shown to reach her present position.

The SF segment highlighted the role of company dancer, Myles Thatcher, who, as a choreographer is now a protégé of Alexei Ratmansky.

Thatcher’s new work will premiere next year.

The SF segment ended with Stefanie Ardnt rehearsing William Forsythe’s The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude.

She was a dancer in the Frankfurt Ballet and has set Forsythe’s works on different companies for many years.

The rehearsal was cut short as time was running out. I’d like to see more of Ardnt’s coaching of Forsythe’s ballets.

World Ballet Day in summary


On 3 October the Australian Ballet issued a media release with initial results:

“Across the five companies’ YouTube channels, a total of 195,430 live plays were recorded over the initial 20 hours, and this number is expected to increase exponentially as viewers continue to enjoy the footage over the coming days.

“Viewers watched an average of 28 minutes, enjoying over 16,100 cumulative hours of footage from The Australian Ballet”.

On 4 October The Toronto Star reported:

“According to preliminary reports the continuous, 20-hour live-streamed broadcast – the longest ever hosted on YouTube – had more than a third of a million views…

“It remains to be seen how many views the entire World Ballet Day webcast attracted during the 48 hours it remained available for viewing after San Francisco Ballet wrapped up the live stream on Wednesday evening”.

So far there has been no reports of the source for the statistics.


The complex logistics and substantial costs of the event ultimately paid off in bringing ballet to the world, especially out of the shuttered space of ballet studios where class takes place six days a week.

The hosts, dancers and artistic staff of each company succeeded in walking that fine line between explaining the art form to those who know little about it and engaging those involved in it as dancers, teachers and theatre audiences.


The footage inadvertently demonstrated the limitations of the global ballet repertoire.

We saw two companies rehearsing Manon and two rehearsing Don Quixote.

All five of the companies will be presenting Nutcracker this Christmas (but Nutcracker was not given priority in any segment).

Each company showed its character in various ways, and in the case of the Bolshoi, not so subtle ways.

The Bolshoi’s rehearsals of Taming of the Shrew and A Legend of Love showed the mismatch between the Bolshoi Ballet as envisaged by the former artistic director, Alexei Ratamansky and current artistic director, Sergei Filin, and the Bolshoi in the age of Yuri Grigorovich.

The teachers and pianists all did a remarkable job, especially as they knew that their every remark and gesture would be seen around the world.

Energy, positivity and goodwill had to be shown and no negativity.


To see the diversity of the dancers around the world yet also recognise and admire the total commitment they give to their art.

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Francis Chung and Davit Karapetyan, San Francisco Ballet

Christopher Stowell, photo © photo Joni Kabana

Maria Kochetkova, San Francisco Ballet

Myles Thatcher, San Francisco Ballet and Alexei Ratmansky

Yuan Yuan Tan with Helgi Tomasson, photo © Erik Tomasson