In 2012, Ballet Sun Valley’s inaugural summer season brought the world-class dancers of the San Francisco Ballet to the Wood River Valley area for the first time.
Led by artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson, the California ensemble took to the Sun Valley Pavilion for multiple performances.
Following what he described as an “incredibly successful” premiere engagement, Ballet Sun Valley founder Bob Smelick quickly sought to reprise San Francisco’s sojourn.
Unfortunately, due to the San Francisco Ballet’s full agenda—in addition to their hometown engagements, the troupe performed at the Kennedy Center last fall and will head to Sadler’s Welles in London this June—and the Pavilion’s own competitive booking schedule, Ballet Sun Valley was unable to confirm a repeat recital, at least until now.
At the end of December 2018, Ballet Sun Valley announced that the San Francisco ensemble would return to the area this coming summer. Following that preliminary proclamation, the companies have just jointly confirmed the full 2019 program.
The San Francisco Ballet will provide two different evenings of entertainment at the Sun Valley Pavilion, the first on Friday, July 5, and the second on Sunday, July 7.
The two programs feature a diverse selection of dances, spanning centuries of music and choreography, even simultaneously in some cases. Take, for example, the Concerto Grosso. Though composed by Francesco Geminiani in 1726, the music will be paired with original choreography by Helgi Tomasson.
Similarly, Tomasson lends his choreographic expertise to an adaptation of Tchaikovsky’s famous ballet “The Sleeping Beauty,” which premiered in 1890. Smelick described this as “an interpretation of the original,” allowing as how, though featuring much of Tomasson’s work, “it will be recognizable to anyone who’s ever seen ‘Sleeping Beauty.’”
Tomasson and fellow choreographer Yuri Possokhov—San Francisco Ballet’s choreographer in residence—have also provided additions and alterations to Ludwig Minkus’ “Don Quixote,” first performed in 1869, and original choreography to accompany music from “Sinfonietta for String Orchestra,” 1953, by Boris Tchaikovsky (no relation to Peter Ilyich).
With pieces from 1949, 2006 and the brand-new 2019 piece “Unsaid,” composed by Ezio Bosso and choreographed by Danielle Rowe, the opening night program seamlessly capers through the centuries to provide an insightful cross-section of the art form.
When the ballet recongregates on July 7, the dancers will bring to life three original works from the San Francisco Ballet’s 2018 “Unbound” festival.
Last year, to mount “Unbound,” Helgi Tomasson enlisted a dozen professional choreographers, each of whom produced a new dance.
The festival opened in San Francisco to much acclaim, but perhaps the best review came when the company journeyed across the country to perform in the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. Of this October performance, dance critic Sarah L. Kaufman wrote in The Washington Post, “Watching the San Francisco Ballet has a palpable, uplifting payoff. You may leave, as I did, feeling a whole lot better about the human race.”
Altogether, 38 dancers will take part in the Sun Valley performances, including all but three of the company’s principals. These 38 artists represent 13 nations from across Europe, Asia, Australia and the Americas. Speaking of this internationality, Smelick described the San Francisco Ballet as “one of the most diverse dance companies in the country.”
In addition to these nearly 40 dancers, the Sun Valley Pavilion will also host a number of choreographers, a full orchestra, world-class conductor Martin West, full production and technical staff, and a stage manager, bringing close to a hundred people into the valley.
The performances are not the ballet’s only business in the area, though. From July 5 until July 7, Ballet Sun Valley will launch a three-day educational program, teaching dance, choreography and more.
Instructors from the prestigious San Francisco Ballet School, described by Smelick as “one of the world’s best-known pre-professional ballet schools,” will impart their knowledge and experience to around 250 students from all over the country.
To take part in the educational programs, prospective students must fill out an application and submit a video detailing their dance experience. The ballet accepts dancers at a range of skill levels and even different styles. More information is available online at balletsunvalley.com/education.
Although educational outreach has been part of Ballet Sun Valley’s agenda since Day One, this year sees an expanded program and, for the first time, they will also offer classes specifically aimed towards students with special needs.
In partnership with Higher Ground and the Boston Ballet, whose ballet school has a dedicated special-needs program, instructors will “teach these special-needs persons so that they not only get good exercise, but so they can express themselves,” Smelick said. “You can provide them means of expression that they have probably not otherwise experienced.”
As an added bonus, the Boston Ballet instructors will also offer training to some of the San Francisco Ballet School teachers, ensuring future opportunities for more special-needs students.
As detailed above, visit Ballet Sun Valley online for more information about all education programs.
The main objective, however, is simply to spread artistic joy. As Smelick put it, “We’re going to bring the highest quality of ballet in the world to Sun Valley. The Pavilion deserves it, the community appreciates it, and the dancers who come here love it.”
Tickets for the two performances are also now available online at a wide range of prices, from $50-$500. Visit balletsunvalley.com/tickets for more information.