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San Francisco Ballet School

San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School were both established in 1933 as a single institution by Gaetano Merola, founding director of San Francisco Opera. Merola recognized the need for a thriving academy that would train dancers to appear in opera productions.

In 1942, Willam and Harold Christensen bought the School from San Francisco Opera, which could no longer provide financial support to the ballet operation. As a result, the San Francisco Ballet Guild was formed in order to maintain the Company as an independent performing unit. Willam Christensen was named artistic director of San Francisco Ballet, and Harold continued on as director of the School.

Today, the School boasts a distinguished international staff, headed by Associate Director Lola de Avila, a Trainee Program for advanced-level students, a dedicated student residence, and an extensive scholarship program. Of the current Company, over 40 percent of the dancers received all or part of their training at the School, and many San Francisco Ballet School students have gone on to dance with professional companies nationally and internationally.

Now, nearly 75 years after its founding, San Francisco Ballet has, indeed, achieved Gaetano Merola’s original goal of elevating San Francisco to a “high position in the realm of dance.” This year, San Francisco Ballet School celebrates its 75th anniversary along with the Company.

San Francisco Ballet School has long enjoyed a reputation for providing quality dance training. The staff includes a permanent faculty of men and women of very different backgrounds who have danced with such companies as American Ballet Theatre, Maurice Béjart’s Ballet of the 20th Century, National Ballet of Cuba, The Joffrey Ballet, National Ballet of Marseilles, Pennsylvania Ballet, and San Francisco Ballet. Together they work closely to achieve a unified style, one that can easily adapt to the demands of San Francisco Ballet or any other company. The faculty is frequently augmented by San Francisco Ballet Company members and artistic staff.

The formidable curriculum, taught by an eminent staff, emphasizes a strong classical technique and a flow of movement that suggests a sense of energy, freedom, and joy—reflecting the kind of dancing favored by San Francisco Ballet. It is a style that readily adapts to meet the demands of any choreographer, any company, any type of movement.

Girls are placed in one of eight divisions and boys in one of six divisions according to age, experience, and ability. They follow a structured sequence of training stages designed to increase their technical skills, stamina, and discipline in accordance with their age and physical development. The program includes classes in technique, pointe work, pas de deux, and men's technique.

Upon completion of their studies at San Francisco Ballet School, students neither receive diplomas nor are they considered graduates. Although they have finished their formal studies, dancers never stop learning: after all, they begin each day with a class. Ballet education is an ongoing process, one that continues throughout a dancer's career.

Even those students whose paths lead to non-dance careers gain immeasurably from having studied at the School. They develop self-motivation, self-discipline, poise, grace, physical adroitness and an appreciation for the arts, which they carry with them throughout their lives.

School name:San Francisco Ballet School
Address:455 Franklin Street.
Zip & city:94102 California

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