Prima ballerina Sasha de Sol

Prima ballerina Sasha de Sola often dons her ballet costume for story times, depending on her rehearsal schedule.

    This Friday and Sunday, July 5 and 7, will see two distinct performances by the esteemed San Francisco Ballet at the Sun Valley Pavilion, presented by Ballet Sun Valley.

    An extensive cast of nearly 40 dancers will take to the stage under the leadership of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson.

    The first evening performance will take audiences on a journey throughout ballet history, stretching back as far as 1726 and including new compositions as recent as 2019. Classic and original choreography alike will help exhibit the full range of the Bay Area company’s world-famous repertoire.

    The second performance, set for Sunday, will showcase pieces from the ballet’s recent “Unbound” festival, which only debuted last year, garnering much acclaim.

    Speaking of the dances set for Sunday, prima ballerina Sasha de Sola said, “They’ve only been seen by a handful of people and we’re excited to bring them to Sun Valley.”

    The principal dancer faces a busy weekend, taking on excerpts from Tchaikovsky’s seminal ballet “The Sleeping Beauty”—a personal favorite of hers—on Friday and dancing two pieces for the mixed repertory program Sunday.

    She will not be taking Saturday as a day off, however. Between shows, the dance troupe will not only be rehearsing, but also engaging in several educational outreach programs, with offerings for dancers and arts enthusiasts of all ages.

    Sasha de Sola will kick off outreach Saturday morning at 10 a.m. for a special edition of story time at The Community Library in Ketchum. Young children, especially those 3-8, are invited to a bilingual reading of the children’s book inspired by her life, “On Tiptoes/De Puntitas,” written by C.V. Monterrubio and illustrated by Gabriela García.

    The book, written in both English and Spanish, tells two stories. The first is a true account of de Sola’s rise in the ballet world, and begins from one cover. The second story, beginning from the other cover, is a fictional narrative of a young boy inspired to pursue ballet. Both de Sola and the boy face their share of obstacles to overcome, and their stories converge in the middle.

    Monterrubio initially approached de Sola with the idea of a bilingual children’s book about ballet.

    “She wanted to make sure it was a genuine story and got the details right,” said de Sola, explaining how she brought the author to ballet rehearsals and performances for research.

    With the details confirmed, Monterrubio was then able to focus on de Sola’s life, an inspirational story of pursuing one’s passion, beating the odds, overcoming setbacks and, eventually, achieving greatness.

     “I absolutely fell in love with ballet at a very young age,” said de Sola. “I like to say it was my first love. When I was very young, I was quite shy, but ballet helped me come out of my shell. When I was performing I felt most like myself.”

    A great deal of hard work, study, practice and skill propelled de Sola’s ballet career forward, but a debilitating injury threatened to stop her in her tracks.

    “I wasn’t sure I’d be able to dance again or fully recover,” she said.

    Her comeback was hard won, but now she dances the world over for one of the globe’s leading ballet companies.

    “I never take one day for granted on the stage or in the studio,” she said.

    Monterrubio’s story—which rhymes in both English and Spanish—retells de Sola’s story as a parable for children, not just about dancing, but more broadly about the pursuit of dreams.

    “Both the author and I agreed that this is a story of pursuing passion and the value in that, even if you face adversity,” de Sola said.

    She has presented a number of similar story times in schools and bookstores around San Francisco, and said she has been delighted with the response she has received from her young audience members.

    Acknowledging certain demographic imbalances in the ballet world, de Sola said, “I kind of expect little girls to be slightly more interested, but in fact I find that little boys have been equally if not more excited about dancing.”

    Children of both genders frequently get on their feet and dance during these story times, making them lively, fun and engaging experiences for young audiences.

    “It’s great to open their eyes to an art form they probably haven’t seen live,” she said. “It’s been really fun to show them that ballerinas aren’t mythical creatures. Even if it’s just one child, it’s great to inspire someone to try something new.”

    Story time with the San Francisco prima ballerina will begin at 10 a.m. in the children’s library. This is a free event.

    Meanwhile, for a slightly more advanced audience, San Francisco Ballet’s general manager, Debra Bernard, will discuss the ballet, the choreographic process and more with Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson. Those in attendance will gain exclusive insight into the Icelandic great’s career. He is widely credited with transforming the San Francisco Ballet company from a regionally renowned troupe to one of ongoing global significance.

This free event will run from 10:30-11:30 a.m. on Saturday morning.

For more information about either story time or Tomasson and Bernard’s discussion, visit comlib.org. To learn more about the San Francisco Ballet, visit sfballet.org.

    To purchase tickets for either the July 5 or July 7 ballet performance at the Sun Valley Pavilion, visit sunvalley.ticketfly.com. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. both evenings for 7:30 p.m. curtains.

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