San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala

The San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Gala was a magical evening of brilliant performances plus socializing, dining, and dancing.

The theme of the San Francisco Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala and performance was “Spellbound” — inspired by the magical, fairy tale-like elements of its 87th season program, which includes A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella.

The gala celebrated Helgi Tomasson’s record-breaking 35th year as artistic director and principal choreographer. The company also welcomed new Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale and principal dancer Vitor Luiz made his final appearance.

The “Spellbound” theme was reflected in City Hall’s glittering décor.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Art Events

San Francisco’s winter social season was in full swing with a glamorous pair of artistic events—a passionate Ballet Opening Night Gala and the FOG Design+Art Fair.

The San Francisco Ballet’s 86th Season debuted with the 2019 Opening Night Gala and Performance with the theme “This is Passion”—and the décor, the ballet attendees, and the performances all surpassed that lofty exclamation.

The most successful opening night gala in the company’s history, a sold-out crowd of 1,000 ballet patrons for the gala dinner (plus 3,000 at the performance and 2,100 at the after-party) broke a new record of raising $3 million.

This year’s chairs outdid themselves: Gala Chair Claire Stewart Kostic, Dinner Chair Lydia Bergman, Décor Chair Donna Bachle, and Honorary Chairs Kelsey and David Lamond.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Art Events

San Francisco’s winter social season was in full swing with a glamorous pair of artistic events—a “celestial” Ballet Gala and the FOG Design+Art Fair.


Befitting the “Celestial” theme of the 2018 San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala, the ladies’ gowns sparkled, the décor set the room aglow, and the performance by the world-class SF Ballet dancers was heavenly.

It was all a spectacular success under the leadership of Gala Chair Kathryn A. Huber, Gala Dinner Chair Betsy Linder, Décor Chair Catherine Bergstrom, and Honorary Chairs Christine Russell and Mark Schlesinger.

Gala Committee members Jane Gazzola, Laura Miller, Pamela Bradley Preston, Rada Brooks, Andi Valo Espina, Lori Harmon, Catherine Bergstrom, Monica Moscoso, Kathy Huber, Claire Kostic, Betsy Linder, Ali Siever, Pam Zaragoza, Christine Desanze, Carolyn Koenig, and V’Anne Singleton.

SF Ballet General Manager Debra Bernard, Gala Chair Kathy Huber, SF Ballet Board Chair Carl Pascarella, and Yurie Pascarella.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2017 San Francisco Ballet Gala

Thousands of guests attended the SF Ballet Opening Night Gala that included a magical performance by the dancers and musicians.


The San Francisco Ballet launched its 2017 season with the sold-out “Ever Magical”-themed Opening Night Gala. It raised a record-setting $2.9 million and drew a record setting-attendance of more than 1,300 guests for the Gala and more than 2,400 at the after-party.

What impressed me most this year was the number of attractive and beautifully dressed younger fans in the crowd. Charitable organizations are puzzling over how to entice the young people to be involved with the arts, and the SF Ballet seems to have found the way.

SF Ballet Auxiliary: Margaret Mitchell, Lori Harmon, Michelle Harris, Maria Hemphill, Brenda Leff, Rene Rodman, Claire Kostic, Blanca Aguirre, Ave Seltsam, Catherine Bergstrom, Monika Moscoso, Meg Ray, Debra Leylegian, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, Trecia Knapp, Rhonda Maehndroo, Jennie Golde.

Décor Chair Claire Kostic, Event Chair Ave Seltsam, and Dinner Chair Meg Ray.

Yurie Pascarella, in Marchesa, with Board of Trustees Chair Carl F. Pascarella.

The black-tie gala drew over 1,300 balletomanes from the Bay Area.

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San Francisco Social Diary: 2016 Festival Napa Valley, Part II

The 2016 Festival Napa Valley is coming up in July, celebrating music, performance, food, and wine, at stunning venues.


Festival Napa Valley, one of America’s premiere summer destination events, will offer a dazzling roster of cultural and culinary attractions from July 15-24, 2016, its eleventh year. Eminent classical, opera, jazz, and dance artists will perform, and intimate food and wine affairs will be hosted by the region’s top vintners.

Over the years, the Festival has introduced me, along with other visitors, to many artists, local vintners, and wineries that aren’t on the tourist route maps, which has given me an insider’s view of the California wine country lifestyle. If you want to share this experience, have a terrific time, and meet the locals, this is the way to go. Put it on your calendar for this year (and next, as well!).

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San Francisco Social Diary: The San Francisco Ballet & FOG Design + Art Fair

The San Francisco Ballet Opening Gala kicked off the winter 2016 social season with a dazzling selection of performances.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2016 Opening Night Gala performance brought its theme, “Provocative,” to life! Balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times.

This year’s chairs included Auxiliary Gala Chair Jennifer Brandenburg, Gala Dinner Chair Christine Leong Connors, and Décor Chair Rhonda Mahendroo, as well as Honorary Chairs Barbro and Bernard Osher.

The Gala was the first event of the current season, which includes three acclaimed full-length productions as well as a wide variety of world premieres and works by choreographers such as Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon. This year also marks the 40th anniversary of the prestigious SF Ballet Orchestra, considered one of the best ballet orchestras in the country.

Members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.

More members of the SF Ballet Gala committee.

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San Francisco Social Diary: San Francisco’s Winter Social Season 2014

San Francisco kicked off the winter 2014 social season with a collection of events, including the dazzling and completely sold-out SF Ballet opening gala.

Deciding to winter in San Francisco turned out to be a brilliant choice. New York City has suffered through record cold and snow, while San Francisco experienced an uncharacteristically warm and dry January. The social season was heated here, too, as you’ll see from the following reports.


The San Francisco Ballet’s 2014 Opening Night Gala performance on January 21 brought its theme, “Phenomenal,” to life! A record 3,200 balletomanes filled the War Memorial Opera House to see the company deemed “a national treasure” by the The New York Times when it appeared at Lincoln Center last fall.

The chairs of this wildly successful event included Auxiliary Gala Chair Tanya Marietta Powell, Gala Dinner Chair Patricia Ferrin Loucks, and Décor Chair Shelley Gordon, along with Richard Barker as Honorary Chair.

The evening’s glamour quotient could not have been higher. The ladies dazzled, gowned in rich jewel tones and many also adorned with Bulgari baubles in support of the jewelry house that underwrote the launch party. (Not hard to muster enthusiasm for this show of support!)

Ballet Gala committee members Marie Hurabiell, Shelley Gordon, Alison Mauze, Suzanne Thornton, Patricia Ferrin Loucks, Richard Barker, Tanya Powell, Betsy Linder, Cathy Goodman, Debra Taylor, and Judy Anderson.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Festival del Sole – Napa Valley Part III

In 2013, the annual Festival del Sole once again drew artists and audiences to the Napa Valley with unique venues and a tradition of vintner hospitality.


The annual ten-day Festival del Sole celebrates the fine arts in life, including music, dance, visual art, culinary arts, and wine making, with spectacular events held throughout the Napa Valley.

Part I and Part II of my coverage describe some of the food, music, and wine events. The story continues:


Credit Shahpar and Darioush Khaledi and Tatiana and Gerret Copeland with the clever idea of highlighting the culture of two great dynasties, Persia and Russia, to create one of the most exotic of the Festival’s parties.

The lavish experience took place against the stunning architectural backdrop of the Darioush Winery. Its founder, Darioush Khaledi, was raised in the Shiraz region of Iran, and the building evokes the ancient city of Persepolis, the ceremonial capital of Iran (formerly Persia) from 550–330 BCE.

The entrance of the Darioush Winery, built of Persian straw travertine stone, is flanked by 18-foot columns topped with depictions of bulls.

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San Francisco Social Diary: More Spring Events

A fairytale gala kicked off choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella ballet, which opened to rave reviews in San Francisco and next heads to New York’s Lincoln Center.


The San Francisco Ballet closed its 2013 season with a gala event for the U.S. premiere of British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella.

A collaboration between the San Francisco Ballet and the Dutch National Ballet, the performance was based on the classic folktale with a score by Sergei Prokofiev. It included huge puppets, sets that incorporated video, and costumes by Julian Crouch, whose credits include operas and the Broadway musical The Addams Family.

Wheeldon, who joined the prestigious New York City Ballet corps at 19, began choreographing for the company at 23. He’s won several awards for his work for them and other eminent companies. In 2007, he and dancer Lourdes Lopez co-founded the NYC and London-based ballet company Morphoses/The Wheeldon Company.

Amy Burnett, Stephanie Ejabat, dinner chair Shelby Gans, Suzy Kellems Dominik, Kelli Burrill, Sandy Katzman, Karen Sonneborn, and Elizabeth Fullerton.

Gala co-chair Stephanie Ejabat, designer Riccardo Benavides, and co-chair Suzy Kellems Dominik.

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San Francisco Social Diary: The San Francisco Ballet Gala Opening 2013

The San Francisco Ballet’s 80th anniversary gala featured a gorgeous setting in City Hall, a spectacular ballet performance, and a rousing after-party—one of the most glamorous and exciting evenings of the year!

Though I hibernated much of the winter in San Francisco—writing my columns about Shanghai and organizing over 100,000 photos from China—I did manage to catch some of the highlight events of the social seasons so I could share them with you.


The San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 80th anniversary with the annual Opening Night Gala on January 24, 2013—just in time to add sparkle to a quiet January in the city.

This year’s gala theme was “Moving the Compass—Bridging the Globe through the Universal Language of Dance.” The idea that dance can bridge the globe and our cultural differences is a fitting theme for this international city.

The black-tie gala drew over 850 balletomanes from the Bay Area: old and new guard mixing together along with the swan-like socialites, dot-commers, venture capitalists, and a new chic younger set, more than I recall at other black-tie cultural events in town.

Auxiliary members Marie Hurabiell, Blanca Aguirre, Leslie Ryder, Julie Dolan, Alison Mauze, Shelby Strudwick, Deborah Taylor, Rhonda Mahendroo, Cathy Goodman, Laurel Schaffer, Tanya Powell, Jennifer Brandenburg, Kelli Burrill, Joilene Grove, and Beverly Siri Borelli.

ENCORE! board members Ashley Tudor, Jimmy Ho, Jane Burkhard, Robin Farmanfarmaian, Alyson Blume, Amy Puliafito, Brian Gustafson, Ishara Kotagama, Emily Hu, and Wilson Yan.

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