Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco members perform at SF Ballet’s Summer Dance Camp Workshop Presentation. (© Chris Hardy)
455 Franklin Street bustled with young energy last week. While SF Ballet School students were still away for the summer, more than 50 children (ages 5-15) participated in SF Ballet’s first Summer Dance Camp in collaboration with the Boys & Girls Clubs of San Francisco (BGCSF). With the Don Fisher Clubhouse only half a block away from the Ballet building, the partnership was a natural fit and an extension of SF Ballet’s mission of sharing the joy of dance with the community.
Children from neighborhoods throughout San Francisco attended Dance Camp. Some were regulars from the Don Fisher Clubhouse which mostly serves the Western Addition, and a large number were shuttled in from BGCSF’s Excelsior, Mission, Sunnydale, and San Francisco Community School clubhouses. It was truly a team effort that made Summer Dance Camp possible.
At the end of last season I had the privilege of working with the SF Ballet School Trainees on a collaboration with the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Combo (thanks to School Associate Director Patrick Armand and Trainee Program Coordinator Wendy Van Dyck for asking me!). The two students groups, each made up of about 6-12 members began work last September, to create an original program based on the combination of their art forms. The project culminated in a workshop at SFJAZZ.
SFBS Trainees perform to music by the SFJAZZ High School All-Stars Combo.
The Combo took the first step by composing original music, which was recorded and shared with the Trainees. I was brought in at this point to narrow down the musical selections as well create structure for the piece. In February I began to work with the Trainees—we met 3 to 6 hours a week working with the pieces of music composed or arranged by The Combo. Read More
At the end of every school year the San Francisco Ballet School students have the opportunity to bring their hard work to the stage in the annual Student Showcase. Students from all the levels will present class demonstrations, culminating with performances by the SF Ballet Trainee Program. We sat down with trainees Natasha Sheehan and Francisco Sebastião to discuss their experience as trainees and their anticipation of Student Showcase. Student Showcase takes place next week on May 20, 21, and 22 and will include works by Kenneth MacMillan, Helgi Tomasson, James Sofranko, Benjamin Freemantle, and more.
Natasha Sheehan (© Erik Tomasson)
Q. When did you start dancing? When did you know you wanted to be a professional ballet dancer?
Natasha Sheehan: I was born in San Francisco, and grew up in Walnut Creek. I started taking ballet and jazz classes as little kid, but I hated ballet! It wasn’t until I started watching YouTube videos and got inspired by them and started to fall in love with ballet and wanted to pursue it in a more serious way. Since I grew up in the Bay Area, I’ve been lucky enough to see SF Ballet’s Nutcracker since I was little. I have been training at SF Ballet School since I was 10. This is my first year as a trainee.
Francisco Sebastião: I am from Portugal. I always loved the arts and dance, and didn’t realize how seriously I wanted to train until I went to a competition in China. I saw so many talented dancers and realized how much work it takes to pursue ballet at a professional level. I trained at the National Conservatory in Portugal for 9 years. I competed at the Prix de Lausanne and won a scholarship to come to San Francisco and train here. This is my second year in the Trainee Program. Read More
Fight Director, Martino Pistone, has taught at American Conservatory Theater, California Institute of the Arts, The Juilliard School, New York University, and the Lee Strasberg Theatre & Film Institute. His choreography credits include regional theaters across the country, SF Opera, The Public Theatre in New York, and many television shows and feature films.
How long have you been a part of SF Ballet’s Romeo & Juliet?
In 1994, Helgi Tomasson brought me on to choreograph and block the fight scenes in the ballet. I have worked on Romeo & Juliet every year it has returned to the stage. Although it is the same ballet from year to year, I make changes here and there to fit the dancers’ abilities.
What do you focus on when staging the fight choreography?
The music holds the emotional value of the fight, so one of the utmost important aspects of my job as fight choreographer is to fit it all perfectly to the music. Just like Helgi does as a choreographer, what you see onstage are my interpretations of the music in movement. But unlike Helgi’s choreography, the fight scenes need to be intense and aggressive, sharply contrasting the love story that his choreography is telling.
The fight choreography is based on acting: an objective, a want, and a relationship that has to be conveyed to the audience so the story is clear. The performers have to develop a relationship with their own characters, as well as their relationship to one another. How they respond and interact with one another allows them to be totally in the moment so they know what’s going on around them so nobody gets hurt. All of this gives the quality of danger without actually being dangerous. That’s how we make the audience suck air!
Jeremy Rucker and Sean Orza in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet.
(© Erik Tomasson)