San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet 76th Season Gala

Maria Kochetkova and Joan Boada in Possokhov’s Raymonda.


The San Francisco Ballet danced its way into its 76th repertory season on January 21, 2009 with a black-tie evening of “Russian Treasures.”

America’s oldest professional ballet company, headed by Artist Director Helgi Tomasson, gave an incredible world-class performance at SF’s War Memorial Opera House on Van Ness Avenue.

Tomasson was once a principal dancer with the New York City Ballet. Thus Tarantella, a piece by George Balanchine, the iconic Russian choreographer and late director of the New York City Ballet, seemed a natural starter for the program, which also featured Christopher Wheeldon’s Polyphonia, Tchaikovsky’s Pas de Deux from Swan Lake, and Tomasson’s Confidencias.

After intermission, the world premiere of Raymonda Pas de Deux, Forsythe’s Pas de Deux from Le Corsaire, and Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes completed the adventurous program.

Many of SFB’s top dancers performed, including Frances Chung, Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Katita Waldo, Ivan Popov, Tina LeBlanc, Nicolas Blanc, Yuan Yuan Tan, Tiit Helimets, Maria Kochetkova, Joan Boada, Sofiane Sylve, Vanessa Zahorian, and Taras Domitro.

Four black-tie gala fundraising dinners preceded the performance. They began promptly at 5 pm with a cocktail hour across the street from the Opera House at City Hall, the grand Beaux-Arts historic landmark used for so many social, political and cultural occasions.

This year, the Auxiliary’s Gala Chair was Jane Mudge. Gala Dinner Chair Cheri Spolin and Décor Chair Melissa Barber arranged for Event Planner J. Riccardo Benavides of Ideas to create the ambience of a formal palace dining hall, inspired by the rich jewel tones of Fabergé eggs and using tapestry linens in mustard, raspberry, and amber.

Cheri Spolin (Gala Dinner Chair) and husband Mathew Spolin.

Paul Duryea and Susan Solinsky Duryea (Gala Benefactor Chair).

Jane Mudge (Gala Chair).

Patrick Barber and Melissa Barber (Gala DĂ©cor Chair).

Shannon Cronan, Jane Mudge, J Ricardo Benavides, Melissa Barber, and Cheri Spolin.

To maximize fundraising and minimize expenses, this year the Encore!, the social and networking group for young professionals, held their themed ICONic Imperial dinner at City Hall rather than Davies Symphony Hall as usual. Taking over the Mezzanine, they had the best view, overlooking the entire scene below.

Everyone enjoyed the fact that the entire “ballet family” was able to celebrate under one dome. Encore! Event Chair was Erin Glenn, Dinner Co-chairs were Blanca Aguirre and Maggie Stack King, and Décor Co-Chairs were Paula Elmore and Rene Rodman.

Frances Chung and Daniel Deivison-Oliviera in Balanchine’s Tarantella.

Katita Waldo and Ivan Popov in Wheeldon’s Polyphonial.

Lorena Feijoo in Tomasson’s Confidencias.

Tina LeBlanc in Balanchine’s Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux.

Vanessa Zahorian and Taras Domitro in Pepita’s Le Corsair.

Yuan Yuan Tan in Tomasson’s Giselle.

Rachel Viselli and Hansuke Yamamoto in Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes.

Sofiane Sylve and Pierre-François Vilanoba in Forsythe’s in the middle, somewhat elevate.

McCall’s catered all four dinners and everyone raved about the filet mignon dinner followed by a luscious dessert, a dark chocolate Faberge Egg Cake with hazelnut mousse and fresh berries.

On an otherwise perfect evening, the only glitch was the weather. The day before was sunny and in the upper 60’s, but on Gala night the temperature dropped to 64 and it poured.

Russian splendor.

Imperial table settings.

But San Franciscans are troupers! The ladies just simply hiked up those long gowns to cross the street to the ballet performance.

Thanks goes to Pamela Joyner and her husband Alfred Giuffrida, who hosted both the Grand Benefactor’s and Benefactors’ parties, while Mr. and Mrs. John Shuhda hosted the Patrons’ event.

James Anthony and Kristine Anthony (Gala Patron Chair).

Dick Barker (Chair of the Board of Trustees) and Diane Morris.

Gavin Newsom Mayor of San Francisco and wife Jennifer Siebel Newsom.

Yurie Pascarella and Charlotte Shultz (Trustee).

O.J. Shansby (Trustee).

Carole Shorenstein Hays and Jeff Hays (Trustee).

Akiko Yamazaki (Trustee).

Rosemary Baker (Trustee).

Lucy Jewett (Trustee), Robert Mailer Anderson and Nicola Miner.

Stephanie von Thaden (Auxiliary Vice President) and Shannon Cronan (Auxiliary President).

Carl Pascarella (Trustee), Yurie Pascarella, Akiko Yamazaki (Trustee), and Jerry Yang.

Shannon Cronan (Auxiliary President) and husband Dan Cronan.

Zachary Bogue and Marissa Mayer (Trustee).

Suzanne and Charles Thornton.

Betsy Linder and Karen Caldwell.

Vera Carpeneti and Delia Ehrlich.

Charles Korrell with Holly and Karl Peterson.

Jason Johnson and Jean Larette.

Lindsay Bolton and Laurie Hannah.

Deborah Taylor and Bebe Kokab.

Betsy Linder, Karen Caldwell, and Susan Dunlevy.

Nancy and Joachim Bechtle.

By the way, Ms. Joyner was also Co-Chair, together with Effie and Robert Fribourg, and Chelsea Clinton as one of the young patron chairs, for the Winter Ball of the School of American Ballet in Manhattan that took place just this past week.

In these difficult times, it’s especially important to thank the generous sponsors.

Encore! makes a grand entrance.

In this case, the Lead Sponsor was The US Trust, Bank of America Private Wealth Management; the Patron Dinner Sponsor was KPMG; the Encore! Sponsor was LECG Corporation; the Media Sponsors were Nob Hill Gazette, Town and Country, and, and Sotheby’s International Realty underwrote the invitations and programs.

After the performances, the energetic members of the crowded headed back to City hall where Pride and Joy, Discotheque with Pure Energy, and the Luna Nova Quartet entertained at the Post Party until 1 a.m.

Guests had their choice of three venues set up just for the evening – the “Pavlova Lounge,” the “Bolshoi Supper Club” or the “Kiev Lounge,” all so upbeat it was difficult to choose among them.

McCall’s caterers offered sweets and zakuski (Russian hors d’oeuvres) that fueled the dancing crowds. Sponsored by JPMorgan, the post-party with its open bars and free-flowing libations seemed a bargain at $125 a pop, and it was open to the public—an oh-so-clever way to entice a young crowd of prospective ballet supporters.

So support your local ballet company. It showed us there is still fun to be had in these recessionary times.

Trisha Weaver (Encore President) and Richard Cheng.

Erin Glenn (Encore Gala Chair) and Shawn Glenn Chick.

Laura Miller, V’Anne Singleton, and Niki Lowry (Encore Post-Gala Chairs).

Dick Barker, Erin Glenn, Trisha Weaver, and Glenn McCoy.

Evie Simon, Catherine Bettis, Kate Harbin, and Jane Jorgen.

Donna Hoghooghi and Lily Samii.

Evie Simon, Cristina Robinson, Ashley Stropes, Robin Farmanfarmaian, and Kristen Marsh.

Monica Floeck and Whitney Piper.

Maggie Stack King, Afsaneh Akhtari, Kelly Grimes, and Alexandra Skillman.

Matt Herold, Laura Miller, Jenny Georges, and Bhuvan Sahney.

Bill and Kathleen Hamm, Erin Glenn, and Mary Anne and Tom Jorde.

David Stubbs and Susanne Moller.

Joy and Andrew Woeder with Kirsten Bartok.

Miho Urata and Timour Vick.

Andrea Holcom, Chelsey Seippel, and Sarah Heidkamp.

Liz Brusca and Cristina Gutierrez.

Christopher Contos and Michelle Curtis.

Geraud Wielick, Rebecca Hostetter, and Sean Bennett (SF Ballet Students).


Photographs by Drew Altizer and Erik Tomasson.

1 thought on “San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet 76th Season Gala

  1. You know what I was talking to my friend about Stockton CA, and spanos came up, name probably ain’t spelled right, but my friend Curt had babies, two daughters who spent time, a lot of time at my house right across the street from his, it’s been years but trying to see if recognized them, cause they used to play with my girls, mind botolin shit, cause I really used to a lot with those girls,mama was trying to know some guy, forgot his name for the forty niners , and we were tight, just saying, inquiring cause we were tight and Daddy name Curt R.I.P, , and he was in Hawaii and I seen pictures of daughters, just asking , cause they was my family

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