San Francisco Ballet, the first professional ballet company in America, has emerged as a preeminent troupe since its inception as the San Francisco Opera Ballet in 1933.
In 1940, Willam Christensen staged the first American full-length production of Swan Lake. In 1942, the company became a totally separate entity from the opera and was renamed San Francisco Ballet. On Christmas Eve 1944, Christensen launched a national holiday tradition with the premiere of Nutcracker, the first complete version of the ballet ever mounted in the United States.
In 1972, the company settled permanently in the War Memorial Opera House for its annual residency. In 1974, the San Francisco Ballet faced bankruptcy, but the company and the community responded with an extraordinary grass-roots effort called “Save Our Ballet," which successfully brought the company back from the brink. That year, Dr. Richard E. LeBlond Jr. was appointed president and general manager of the San Francisco Ballet Association, and in 18 months, San Francisco Ballet was in the black financially.
Helgi Tomasson’s arrival in July of 1985 marked the beginning of a new era for San Francisco Ballet. In 1991, San Francisco Ballet performed in New York City for the first time in 26 years, returning in 1993, 1995, 1998, and 2002. All five engagements received great critical acclaim.
In May 1995, San Francisco Ballet played host to 12 ballet companies from around the world for UNited We Dance: An International Festival, commemorating the 50th anniversary of signing the United Nations Charter, which took place in the Performing Arts Center in San Francisco.
After the Company’s New Year’s Eve performance of Nutcracker in 1995, the War Memorial Opera House closed for 18 months of seismic and comprehensive renovations. During the Opera House renovations in 1996 and 1997, San Francisco Ballet performed at the Palace of Fine Arts and Center for the Performing Arts at Yerba Buena Gardens, both in San Francisco, and Zellerbach Hall in Berkeley.
In 2002, San Francisco Ballet began the first of a two-phase process to update and improve their building so it could better accommodate the needs of the growing organization. In 2004, construction was completed and included a new “Dancer Wellness Center" as well as a five-story annex for additional administrative offices.
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San Francisco FAQ
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