San Francisco exists in its own world, out here on the distant West Coast. The San Francisco Ballet, though, just became more global than ever, with new 2017-18 members joining from around the world.
The company school, which presented its annual Student Showcase 31 May through 2 June at YBCA Theater, draws international students as well, such as trainee Wona Park, who hails from Seoul, South Korea. She showed sparkling footwork, solid turns and beautifully controlled balances in the Act I pas de deux of Don Quixote (partnered by fellow trainee and sparkplug David Preciado), and a flair for moody abstraction as Waltz Girl in Serenade; not surprisingly, she has earned a promotion into the corps.
Trainee Blake Johnston will enter the corps as well, and she presented her choreographic debut, Filamentous, at the Showcase. Level 7 Kenedy Kallas and trainee Benji Pearson were especially lyrical in the 7-minute pas de six set to Bryce Dessner’s “Murder Ballades.” More attack from the dancers would have suited the jangly music better, but Johnston, who for the past year has served as SFB’s first Choreographic Trainee, possesses a good sense of space and structure.
Myles Thatcher’s contemporary Panorama featured six younger dancers and a refreshing minimalist-percussion score by Douwe Eisenga. Helgi Tomasson’s Meistens Mozart is a Mark Morris-ish suite of vignettes to strident acapella Mozart songs; Level 7 Jasmine Jimison made the most of the folksy steps.
Following their apprenticeships, French-born Alexandre Cagnat, South African Shené Lazarus and Italian Davide Occhipinti, plus Isabella Walsh and Nathaniel Remez, got their corps contracts.
After a rash of principal retirements last season, including Lorena Feijoo, Vanessa Zahorian and Davit Karapetyan, that tier is getting refreshed with new talent from inside and out. Jennifer Stahl and Sasha De Sola were promoted recently from the soloist level. Ulrik Birkkjær joins from the Royal Danish Ballet, where he was also a principal, filling out SFB’s very strong cadre of principal men. Argentinian-born Ana Sophia Scheller transfers from New York City Ballet, where she began her career in 2004 and made principal in 2012.
The corps is gaining Solomon Golding from London’s Royal Ballet and Gabriela Gonzales, who was born in Mexico and apprenticed at Miami City Ballet. More locally, former SFB corps member Madison Keesler returns to the corps after four seasons with English National Ballet, where she rose to First Artist; it would be wonderful to see her rise through the ranks in San Francisco as well.
Previously announced internal promotions also include a host of new soloists: Max Cauthorn, Isabella DeVivo, Jahna Frantziskonis, Esteban Hernandez and Steven Morse, all well deserved.
The company doesn’t specify departures, but English National Ballet has announced that Aaron Robison will join as a Lead Principal, after a year as an SFB principal. Carlos Quenidit has left to open a school in Mexico. Taras Domitro will return to Florida, and he will be sorely missed.
Alexandre Cagnat/Corps de Ballet
Davide Occhipinti/Corps de Ballet
Shené Lazarus/Corps de Ballet
Nathaniel Remez/Corps de Ballet
Isabella Walsh/Corps de Ballet
New Company Members/Level
Ana Sophia Scheller/Principal
Solomon Golding/Corps de Ballet
Gabriela Gonzalez/Corps de Ballet
Blake Johnston/Corps de Ballet
Madison Keesler/Corps de Ballet
Wona Park/Corps de Ballet
Joseph Warton/Corps de Ballet
Ethan Chudnow/SF Ballet School
Anatalia Hordov/SF Ballet School
Carmela Mayo/SF Ballet School
Swane Messaoudi/SF Ballet School
Larisa Nugent/SF Ballet School
Benjamin Pearson/SF Ballet School