Arthur Pita speaking during a discussion on ballet and technology. Photo by Chris Hardy, courtesy SFB
The first week of San Francisco Ballet's Unbound: A Festival of New Works was all about new ballets, with 12 world premieres by the likes of Justin Peck, Dwight Rhoden and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa. The second weekend provided time to reflect, as artists and influencers gathered for "Boundless: A Symposium on Ballet's Future."
NYCB's snow scene. Photo by Paul Kolnik, courtesy NYCB
As any good bunhead would tell you, for me, Nutcracker is a yearly tradition as old as leaving cookies out for Santa Claus. But this year, I got to experience it with fresh eyes by taking both my 35-year-old fiancé and my 5-year-old nephew for their first times.
I didn't plan on being a Nutcracker evangelist. But my fiancé Brent decided he really, really wanted to see it, and my mother decided that Nutcracker tickets were really what I should give my nephew Robbie for Christmas. So I found myself taking Brent with me to New York City Ballet, and Robbie to San Francisco Ballet while I was home for the holidays.
And experiencing it with them made me realize just how much those of us who've seen and performed Nutcracker dozens of time take for granted. Their reactions made me see the ballet in a whole new light:
Who are you when you no longer do what you've been doing for years?
It is the big question facing anyone who retires. For top ballet dancers, however, the situation is more extreme. They start young, grow up in a rarified atmosphere, mostly see only each other, and become more and more removed from ordinary life. So what is it like to give this all up?
I asked seven former principal dancers from different generations at San Francisco Ballet, including myself, about this challenge.
Sofiane Sylve doesn't mince words. "If you are just going through the motions," she says to her trainee class at the San Francisco Ballet School, "we might as well stay home."
The veteran SFB principal is famed as much for her directness as for her exquisite technique, astonishing interpretive range and captivating stage presence. "I don't do average," she says in an interview at SFB headquarters, across a tree-lined street from the War Memorial Opera House. "If somebody has made the effort to come and sit in the audience, I'm going to give everything I have. There is no holding back."
These are among the first words Sylve has said to the press since she joined SFB as a principal in 2008. Defiant of the trend for self-promotion, she avoids interviews and social media. "I'm highly, highly private," says the French-born ballerina, who turns 41 this month. "I'd rather spend time in the studio."
When we heard rumors earlier this summer that World Ballet Day LIVE might get cancelled this year, we thought our hearts might break.
But we needn't have worried! The happy news came out yesterday that our favorite day of the year is back: World Ballet Day LIVE 2017 is officially scheduled for October 5. Clear your calendar for a serious bunhead binge of live behind-the-scenes footage from the Australian Ballet, Bolshoi Ballet, Royal Ballet, National Ballet of Canada and San Francisco Ballet—plus special video broadcasts from other top companies.
The news got the Dance Magazine staff all nostalgic. We started reminiscing about our favorite highlights from past World Ballet Day LIVE events. Our top picks?