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

San Francisco Ballet celebrated its 79th Repertory Season Opening Night.

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 opening night black-tie gala for the San Francisco is one of my favorite social occasions of the year. This year, the 79th anniversary of the annual event attracted 850 guests and raised an incredible $2 million.

As always, the evening was an all-around treat. In addition to a spectacular performance by first-rate dancers and gorgeous ballet scenery and music, first-nighters enjoyed a dinner and after-party with lavish décor and splendid food.

And of course, the glamour quotient could not have been higher. All of San Francisco’s bold-faced names were there, and the ladies dazzled — gloriously gowned in rich jewel tones and sporting their special-occasion sparklers.

The Gala performance included ten classical and contemporary works and excerpts that won rave reviews.

An incredible success in every way, the event raised over $2 million dollars.

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San Francisco Social Diary

San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala.

Trying to head to New York in January, I was “stranded” in California for weeks. But complaining would have been silly.

Instead of huddling in my New York apartment, facing mounds of snow and the arctic climate outside, I was hiking in San Francisco, enjoying views of the Pacific and Golden Gate amid temperatures in the 70s. And there was a lot to do!


Since I was in town, I was able to attend one of my favorite events: the opening night of the San Francisco Ballet.

For San Francisco-centric me, it was fun to see old friends and meet some movers and shakers from south of the city, referred to as The Peninsula. Many had taken city hotel rooms to dress and spend the night, even though it’s only a half an hour drive home.

Alison Mauze (Auxiliary President), Richard Barker (Board Chair), Rada Brooks (Gala Chair), and Marie Hurabiell (Gala Dinner Chair).

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San Francisco Social Diary: Winter Celebrations

San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala – Silver Celebrations.


The annual San Francisco Ballet Opening Night Gala, now in its 77th year, is always one of my favorite evenings, but this was special: a “Silver Celebration” in honor of Helgi Tomasson’s 25th anniversary as artistic director and principal choreographer.

Marlene Tomasson, Helgi Tomasson (SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer), and Charlotte Shultz.

“Suddenly it was 25 years! Hard to believe,” he said. The Iceland native was 17 when he was spotted by Jerome Robbins, who arranged a scholarship at the School of American Ballet in New York City.

Tomasson became a principal dancer with the Joffrey, the Harkness, and in 1970, the New York City Ballet, where Robbins and George Balanchine created many roles for him.

When he was hired by the S.F. Ballet in 1985, he had just retired from dancing. Although he had never run a company, the Board took what turned out to be a brilliant gamble on him.

Tomasson is credited with lifting the regional San Francisco Ballet to international ranks, and the company tours often. I’m fortunate to have seen them perform in Athens, Greece, New York, Paris, and China.

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San Francisco Social Diary: Fall Cultural Events

San Francisco Ballet performs in Beijing and Shanghai.


The San Francisco Ballet, America’s oldest professional ballet company and the premier company on the West Coast, made its first tour to the People’s Republic of China this fall.

It was a major event to celebrate both the 60th anniversary of the founding of the People’s Republic of China and the 30th anniversary of the establishment of official diplomatic relations between China and the U.S. San Francisco is sister city to Shanghai.

Board Chair Richard Barker and Principal Dancer Yuan Yuan Tan with Marlene and Helgi Tomasson.

The reception in honor of the SF Ballet at the St. Regis in Beijing.

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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.

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San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet Celebrates its Diamond Anniversary

Ready and waiting for the dinner guests at San Francisco Ballet’s 75th anniversary.


The celebrated San Francisco Ballet feted its 75th anniversary appropriately with a diamond themed opening night gala reminding us that it’s the oldest ballet company in the U.S. Opening night is always such a beautiful and glamorous affair that I mark it on my calendar each year.

This sold-out event was a hot-ticket. More than 1,200 guests filled City Hall for the pre-performance dinner that ranged from $1,000 to $3,500 that sold out first. Even the performance at the War Memorial Opera House that seats over 3,000 had a waitlist for standing room.

“I’ve never seen a better dressed crowd and it’s like a fashion show” observed a patron … and there are so many baubles and diamond necklaces.” And what better occasion than a diamond jubilee to haul out the jewels — everyone seemed to get in the spirit.

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San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet’s 74th Opening Night

Molly Smolen in Ashton’s “Five Waltzes in the Manner of Isadora Duncan.”


The Oscars have nothing on San Francisco when it comes to glitzy, glamour- filled fetes. Just when the post-holiday blues settle in, the annual San Francisco Ballet’s Opening Night Gala arrives to shake off the mid-winter doldrums. The black-tie, red carpet event brings out SF’s boldest, brightest and most beautiful—all dressed to impress.

This year’s sold-out affair, themed “Spanish Splendor,” drew over 1200 balletomanes from the Bay Area, old and new guard alike: socialites, dot commers, venture capitalists, and a chic younger set.

The Auxiliary Gala Committee is responsible for organizing all the fabulousity: Gala Chair Shannon Cronan, Dinner Chair Stephanie von Thaden, Décor Chair Cheri Spolin, and Honorary Chairs Dr. Stephen and Marlene Gill.

“I just love this gala as it’s the first big event after the holidays and I get to see all my friends!” exclaimed O.J. Shansby. “The women are so glam—I’ve never seen so many trains.”

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San Francisco Social Diary: SF Ballet 73rd Opening Night Gala

City Hall Rotunda, Patron and Benefactor dinner.


Regular Diary readers may have noticed that we occasionally run sections on social activities in San Francisco. These are provided mainly by Jeanne Lawrence, a longtime friend of ours who maintains a home there as well as in New York. Jeanne is one of those people with a natural yen for travel and change, hence her enthusiastic bi-coastal presence. Recently she has joined NYSD in the role of Editor-at-Large and will be regularly providing readers with coverage from, among other places San Francisco, that brilliant city by the bay.

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