San Francisco Ballet School

San Francisco, U.S.A.

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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. 
San Francisco Ballet truly began to take shape as an independent entity when Willam Christensen became Company ballet master. Two years later he appointed his brother, Harold, director of the School.

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.

Under Harold's guidance, the School evolved into one of the country's finest classical academies. Scholarship programs were initiated and the faculty grew to include numerous prominent classical ballet teachers.

When Harold retired in 1975, Richard Cammack became the new director of the School. Cammack oversaw the School's move into its current state-of-the-art facility in 1983. Helgi Tomasson assumed leadership of the School after becoming artistic director of San Francisco Ballet in 1985. In 1986, Tomasson invited former San Francisco Ballet ballerina Nancy Johnson to head the School, a role she held until 1993, when he appointed Lola de Avila to the School's newly established position of associate director. De Avila left the position in 1999 at which time Gloria Govrin was appointed the School's associate director. De Avila returned to the position of associate director from 2006 to 2012.

Today, the School boasts a distinguished international staff, headed by Associate Director Patrick Armand, a Trainee Program for advanced-level students, a dedicated student residence, and an extensive scholarship program. Of the current Company, over 50 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.

Helgi Tomasson, Director

Before Helgi Tomasson became Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet and Director of San Francisco Ballet School, he was regarded as one of the supreme classical dancers of his generation. His uncompromising commitment to classicism remains his preoccupation as a choreographer, teacher, and coach, and is the foundation of the School's training.

Tomasson began his ballet training in his native Iceland, and continued his studies at Denmark's Pantomime Theatre and at George Balanchine's School of American Ballet in New York City. He joined the Joffrey Ballet in 1961, and two years later became a member of Harkness Ballet. Over the next six years, Tomasson became one of that company's most celebrated dancers. In 1969, Tomasson entered the First International Ballet Competition in Moscow, and returned home to the United States with the silver medal. The following year, Balanchine invited him to join New York City Ballet as a principal dancer.

Tomasson's performing career ended in 1985, when he became artistic director of San Francisco Ballet. He brought to this position a gift for choreographing and for teaching, a dynamic vision, and the pursuit of excellence. Under his guidance, San Francisco Ballet has achieved recognition as one of the finest ballet companies in the world.

Patrick Armand, Associate Director

Born in Marseille, France, Patrick Armand studied with Rudy Bryans, his mother Colette Armand, and at the École de Danse de Marseille. He won the Prix de Lausanne in 1980 and continued his studies at the School of American Ballet and at the Centre de Danse International in Cannes. In 1981, he joined the Ballet Theatre Français and was promoted to principal dancer in 1983. That same year, Armand was nominated for a Laurence Olivier Award for his performance in Béjart’s Song of a Wayfarer with Rudolf Nureyev. In 1984, he was invited by Peter Schaufuss to join the London Festival Ballet (now English National Ballet), where he danced for six years before joining Boston Ballet in 1990, under the direction of Bruce Marks.

In 2006, he was appointed teacher and ballet master of the Teatro alla Scala in Milan. Recently, he choreographed a production of Don Quixote for the Croatian National Theatre in Zagreb, which premiered in June 2010.

In 1998 and 2009, Armand served as a jury member of the Prix de Lausanne and since 2010, he has been the competition’s official male coach and teacher. In 2010, he was appointed principal of the SF Ballet School Trainee Program and in September 2012, he assumed the position of San Francisco Ballet School Associate Director.

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