Since its founding in 1938, the annual Stern Grove Festival has been a staple of San Francisco’s summer performing arts scene. Nestled in a redwood grove just off Sloat Boulevard, the Festival offers a wide range of admission-free performances to the general public each summer. Last Sunday, an audience of approximately 7,000 gathered to watch SF Ballet’s performance, which showcased the Company’s diverse and wide-ranging repertory: Wheeldon’s Rush©, Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, the United States premiere of Thatcher’s Frayed, van Manen’s Solo, and Caniparoli’s Lambarena.
Frances Chung and Anthony Vincent in Caniparoli’s Lambarena. (Photo: Erik Tomasson)
This was Soloist Lauren Strongin’s first performance at Stern Grove, having joined the Company from Houston Ballet in early July. She noted, “It was a really special place to have my first performance and jump right in.” Corps de Ballet member Norika Matsuyama had never performed at Stern Grove either and added, “I’ve watched from the audience in the past few years as a student, so it was surreal to be on the other side, dancing onstage as a Company member.” Stern Grove veterans Principal Dancer Gennadi Nedvigin and Soloist James Sofranko both estimate they’ve danced at the Festival over a dozen times each. Nedvigin remarked, “As dancers, we’re more connected with the audience at Stern Grove. Rather than just hear their applause at the end of a show, we get to see the reactions of our audience throughout the performance instead of just at the end.”
Following a six-week hiatus, the Company returned to the SF Ballet studios on July 6. Below, five dancers tell us about how they spent their summer vacations:
Diego Cruz (corps de ballet): Right after the season was over, I went to Mexico for a bachelor party with some of the other dancers. We surprised the soon-to-be groom by waking him up in the middle of the night and taking him to the airport. Luckily, his fiancée, [SF Ballet Corps de Ballet Dancer] Jordan Hammond, had packed his bag and was in on the secret, but he definitely thought we were intruders! After Puerto Vallarta, I headed to my hometown of Zaragoza, Spain where I spent lots of time with my family. Our city had the hottest June temperatures in all of Europe—often up to 110 degrees, so I’d stay indoors until about 8pm at night and then go out. I particularly enjoyed cooking and eating lots of delicious meals; I especially enjoyed all the great meat! My brother is 15 years old and a student at Lola de Avila’s ballet school—I loved having the chance to watch him in rehearsal and see how much he’s matured as a dancer. On the way back to SF, I brought a lot of food and my bags were very overweight—but it was worth it!
Dancing in Spain.
Cynthia Harvey leads class during San Francisco Ballet School’s Summer Session.
(© Erik Tomasson)
Cynthia Harvey performed with American Ballet Theatre and was the first American to join The Royal Ballet as a principal dancer. She now returns to the Bay Area where she was born and raised to guest teach SF Ballet School students during Summer Program 2.
Was there a moment in which you knew you wanted to be a professional dancer?
Yes. When I was 11 years old and studying ballet in Marin County, the Bolshoi came through San Francisco to audition kids for their ballet school performance. I saw Vladimir Vasiliev and Maya Plisetskaya up-close and live, and I reveled in the backstage experience. I didn’t know dancing was a career choice until then.
Do you have any pre-performance rituals that you still practice as a teacher?
No, I’m not really superstitious, and I never established a routine since I was so frequently thrown on stage at the last moment. When I teach, I always do an hour barre warm-up beforehand to keep the material fresh. It makes it much easier to give pointers and cite specifics because I’m aware of how a movement is supposed to look and feel on the body. I ask myself questions such as, “How high should this leg be?” It’s exhausting after three weeks of guest teaching! Throughout the day, I’m watching rehearsals, warming up a class, or coaching a solo. It’s like dancing with a company except with extra hours.
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.