Ballet Sun Valley has officially announced its 2019 program, and tickets are on sale for two performances. On July 5 and 7, the world-renowned San Francisco Ballet will grace the stage at the Sun Valley Pavilion.
Ballet Sun Valley was founded in 2011 by Bob Smelick, a longtime board member of the San Francisco Ballet.
As he tells it, the idea for Ballet Sun Valley was inspired by a visit to France to see the San Francisco Ballet perform an outdoor show in Paris’ iconic National Archives Garden.
Shortly thereafter, Smelick visited Sun Valley.
“It happened to be the same summer the Sun Valley Pavilion was unveiled,” he said.
Smelick said his aim was to “let people see this quality of ballet in what I think is one of the most beautiful venues in the world.”
In 2012, the premiere Ballet Sun Valley festival mounted sold-out performances.
The 2018 performances featured highlights from Sergei Prokofiev’s adaptation of Shakespeare’s “Romeo and Juliet,” Frederick Ashton and John Lanchbery’s “The Dream,” and “The Dying Swan,” a solo dance set to Saint-Saëns’ “The Carnival of Animals.”
For its 2019 festival, under the leadership of Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson, dancers from the San Francisco Ballet will perform a wide array of pieces from popular classics and recently premiered ballets alike.
The two shows will feature different programs. The July 5 performance is described by Ballet Sun Valley as a “Gala-Style format primarily of pas de deux dances.”
The French phrase “pas de deux” translates into English as “step of two,” and refers to a ballet duet in which two dancers, usually one male and one female, perform in tandem.
These sequences figure into many popular and famous ballets, including “Swan Lake” and “The Nutcracker,” both by Tchaikovsky, as well as “Romeo and Juliet.”
Following on July 7 is a program consisting of three “mixed repertory-style” dances.
Tomasson is still in the process of finalizing the program. According to Smelick, though, he plans on incorporating some original choreographies from the ballet’s recent “Unbound” festival.
These dances premiered in San Francisco last spring. In October, the ballet performed “Unbound” again at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C.
A Washington Post review of the performance stated, “While the San Francisco Ballet’s creative ambition and confidence are unmatched, it’s the sheer excellence of its dancers that makes the strongest statement.”
Smelick elaborated upon these rave reviews. “[Tomasson] has pushed the edges of the dance form and that’s reflected in these works,” he said.
Though possibly subject to change in the next seven months, the current program will likely include three of the 12 original ballets from the “Unbound” series.
As in previous years, Ballet Sun Valley’s summer festival will also feature an educational program. In the past, this series of courses has included formal dance instruction in a variety of styles and at a range of prior proficiency, taught by some of the most widely celebrated ballet dancers in the country.
“This year is going to be even more special,” Smelick said. In addition to the dancers themselves, faculty from the San Francisco Ballet School will provide world-class instruction.
This is a rare opportunity, as enrollment in such academies is extremely competitive. The Ballet Sun Valley educational experiences are completely free, though registration is required and the higher-level courses require proof of proficiency from prospective students.
The San Francisco Ballet boasts an international cast featuring dancers from dozens of countries around the world, with principals from Spain, Denmark, Canada, Italy, France, Australia, England, Estonia, Brazil, Argentina, China and the United States. Of those, a whopping 32 dancers will come to Sun Valley for the July performances.
The San Francisco Ballet was founded in 1933 as part of the San Francisco Opera. The adjoining school was opened the same year, becoming the first of its kind in the United States.
“You don’t have to go to Sadler’s Wells in London or the Kennedy Center to see what’s happening in the ballet world at the very top level,” Smelick said. “Incredible, world-famous dancers are coming into [Sun Valley].”