San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty (© Erik Tomasson)
(San Francisco) – San Francisco Ballet (SF Ballet) announces ten promotions, three new Company members, and five apprentices for the 2020 Repertory Season. Soloists WanTing Zhao, Benjamin Freemantle, and Esteban Hernandez have been promoted to principal dancer, and corps de ballet members Madison Keesler and Cavan Conley have been promoted to soloist. SF Ballet apprentices Leili Rackow, Estéban Cuadrado, Max Föllmer, Joshua Jack Price, and Jacob Seltzer have been promoted to the corps de ballet, following Jasmine Jimison’s earlier promotion to the corps, which was announced in March.
In addition, Misa Kuranaga, who joined SF Ballet as an apprentice in 2001 before transitioning to Boston Ballet, returns to the Company as a principal dancer in the 2020 Season. Also new to SF Ballet are Sasha Mukhamedov, who has been appointed to soloist, and Bianca Teixeira, who joins the corps de ballet. SunMin Lee, Tyla Steinbach, Rubén Cítores, Lleyton Ho, and Adrian Zeisel of San Francisco Ballet School were named apprentices following the 2019 San Francisco Ballet School Spring Festival performances.
Principal dancer WanTing Zhao has been noted for her “jaw-dropping lines and expressive upper body” (Dance Spirit) and is originally from Anshan, China. Zhao trained at Beijing Dance Academy, The Rock School for Dance Education, and SF Ballet School before joining the Company as a member of the corps de ballet in 2011. She was promoted to soloist in 2016, and her promotion to principal dancer came shortly after her debut performance as the Mermaid in Neumeier’s The Little Mermaid in April. Zhao’s additional highlights from the 2019 Repertory Season include Mercedes and Queen of the Driads in Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote, and Carabosse and Lilac Fairy in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty.
WanTing Zhao in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty (© Erik Tomasson)
Benjamin Freemantle was also promoted to principal dancer following his debut performance as the Sea Witch in The Little Mermaid, less than a year after he was promoted to soloist during the 2018 season, following his performance in Robbins’ Fancy Free. Born in British Columbia, Canada, Freemantle was a Trainee at SF Ballet School before being named an apprentice in 2014 and a member of the corps de ballet in 2015. In the 2019 Season, Freemantle reprised his principal role in McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem—prompting the SF Chronicle to note his “immediate and enduring impact”—and performed featured roles in Don Quixote (Toreador), The Sleeping Beauty (Cavalier in Act I & III), and Possokhov’s “. . .two united in a single soul. . .”.
Esteban Hernandez trained at The Rock School for Dance Education and The Royal Ballet School before joining SF Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2013; he was promoted to soloist in 2017. A native of Guadalajara, Mexico, Hernandez danced memorable roles in the 2019 Season including the principal solo in the world premiere performance of Scarlett’s Die Toteninsel (a “delicate and muscular, sinuous and doomed” performance, according to SF Chronicle) and his “outstanding, highflying” (SF Classical Voice) Bluebird in The Sleeping Beauty, in addition to principal roles in “. . .two united in a single soul. . .” and Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.
Madison Keesler’s promotion to soloist was announced after her debut performances as Henriette/The Princess in The Little Mermaid. A native of Carlsbad, California, Keesler trained at Zamuel Ballet School, Central Pennsylvania Youth Ballet, and SF Ballet School. She danced with Hamburg Ballet in 2008 before joining SF Ballet as a member of the corps de ballet in 2009, a position she held until 2013. She returned to SF Ballet in 2017 after dancing as First Artist with English National Ballet, where she performed many lead roles including Giselle in Akram Khan’s Giselle, plus works by Scarlett, Marius Petipa, and Wayne Eagling. In SF Ballet’s 2019 Repertory Season, Keesler danced Mercedes in Don Quixote and Zeena Frome in Marston’s Snowblind, among other roles.
Benjamin Freemantle in McIntyre’s Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem (© Erik Tomasson)
Cavan Conley was promoted to soloist in May, less than a year after joining the Company as a member of the corps de ballet. Conley, who grew up in Rhode Island, received a full scholarship at The Harid Conservatory, where he was a recipient of the Rudolf Nureyev Fellowship Award and the Jeannot B. Cerrone Award for Excellence. Conley was part of Tulsa Ballet II before his promotion to that company’s corps de ballet in 2013; he left as a senior soloist in 2017. In SF Ballet’s 2019 Season, Conley danced Espada in Don Quixote, Bluebird and Cavalier Act III in The Sleeping Beauty, Naval Officer in The Little Mermaid, and principal roles in Scarlett’s Die Toteninsel and Peck’s Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes.
Moreover, five apprentices will join the Company as corps de ballet members.
Leili Rackow was raised in Agoura Hills, California, and trained at California Dance Theatre and Houston Ballet Academy before enrolling in SF Ballet School as a Level 7 student in 2015, the same year she was a finalist at Youth America Grand Prix. Rackow was promoted to Level 8 in 2016, named a Trainee in 2017, and became an apprentice in 2018. During the 2019 Repertory Season, Rackow danced Fairy of Playfulness, a soloist role, in The Sleeping Beauty.
Joshua Jack Price trained at Amanda Bollinger Dance Academy and The Dance Centre before joining SF Ballet School as a Trainee in 2017; he was named an apprentice in 2018. Price won a gold medal at the 2016 Genée International Ballet Competition and was a finalist at the 2017 Prix de Lausanne, where he one of ten dancers to represent Australia (another, Tyla Steinbach, has been named an apprentice for the 2020 season). During SF Ballet’s 2019 Repertory Season, Price danced corps roles in Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes, Die Toteninsel, and in Pita’s Björk Ballet and Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto #1 on tour with SF Ballet in London.
Lauren Strongin and Esteban Hernandez in Scarlett’s Die Toteninsel (© Erik Tomasson)
Estéban Cuadrado trained at Paris Opera Ballet School before joining SF Ballet School as a Level 7 student in 2015. He was promoted to Level 8 in 2016, Trainee in 2017, and apprentice in 2018. In recent years, Cuadrado has participated in summer sessions at The National Ballet of Canada, the Spanish National Dance Company, and Malandain Ballet Biarritz. In the 2019 Repertory Season, Cuadrado danced in corps roles including in Etudes and Björk Ballet, which he also danced with the Company on tour at Sadler’s Wells.
Jacob Seltzer attended SF Ballet School’s Summer Session in 2015 and was invited into Level 7 for the 2015–16 school year. He had previously trained at the American Dance Institute. Seltzer was promoted to Trainee in 2017 and named an apprentice in 2018, and in the 2019 season, he danced corps roles in Björk Ballet and Piano Concerto #1, including on tour to London with the Company.
Max Föllmer trained at the School of Richmond Ballet and participated in Houston Ballet’s summer programs in 2014 and 2015. In 2017, Föllmer was one of five Americans selected to compete in the Prix de Lausanne, after which he was invited to become a Trainee at SF Ballet School for the 2017–18 school year. During SF Ballet’s 2019 season, he danced in Don Quixote (Fandango), The Sleeping Beauty (Cavalier, Blackbird, Polonaise), and in a corps role in Symphony #9, which he also danced on tour in London with the Company.
Jasmine Jimison, whose promotion to the corps de ballet was announced in March, entered SF Ballet School as a Level 5 student in 2014. By 2017, she had advanced to Trainee, and was promoted to apprentice for the 2018–19 school year when she was 16 years old. As an apprentice in the 2019 Repertory Season, Jimison danced The Enchanted Princess (the Bluebird pas de deux) and Fairy of Playfulness in The Sleeping Beauty. After her promotion to the corps de ballet, Jimison performed a principal role in Scarlett’s Hummingbird at Sadler’s Wells during the Company’s 2019 tour to London.
New Company Members
Three new dancers have joined SF Ballet’s ranks.
Misa Kuranaga and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s Soirées Musicales (© Erik Tomasson)
Misa Kuranaga, who joined SF Ballet in 2001 as an apprentice after winning the professional scholarship award at the Prix de Lausanne, returns to the company as a principal dancer. A native of Japan’s Osaka Prefecture, Kuranaga began her training at Jinushi Kaoru Ballet School and School of American Ballet before she was offered a corps de ballet position at Boston Ballet in 2003. She was promoted to second soloist in 2005 after dancing the Sylph in Bounonville’s La Sylphide as a member of the corps. Kuranaga was promoted to soloist in 2007, and principal dancer in 2009. She is the recipient of numerous awards and honors and in 2017 was nominated for a Benois de la Dance award for her portrayal of Tatiana in John Cranko’s Onegin and Medora in Ivan Liska’s Le Corsaire. Kuranaga was last seen at SF Ballet during the 2019 Opening Night Gala, when she danced as a guest artist in Tomasson’s Soirées Musicales.
British dancer Sasha Mukhamedov has been appointed to soloist for the 2020 Repertory Season. Mukhamedov is the daughter of former Bolshoi and Royal Ballet star Irek Mukhamedov and trained at The Royal Ballet School, Elmhurst School for Dance, and with her mother, former Bolshoi soloist Masha Mukhamedov, before joining Dutch National Ballet as an aspirant in 2008, eventually becoming a principal dancer in January 2017. Mukhamedov created the roles of The Trinity in Requiem and Pandora in timelapse/(Mnemosyne), as well as others by David Dawson, and created the role of Russian Princess in Wheeldon’s Cinderella and danced the title role; the ballet returns to SF Ballet in the 2020 Repertory Season.
A native of São Paulo, Brazil, Bianca Teixeira is a demi soloist at Polish National Ballet and is appointed to SF Ballet’s corps de ballet in the 2020 Repertory Season. Teixeira was a Prix de Lausanne finalist in 2014. She danced with the Bavarian State Ballet Junior Company from 2016 to 2017 after graduating with her Bachelor of Dance at Ballet Arts at the Ballet Academy of the University for Music and Theatre, Munich in 2016.
Five SF Ballet School Trainees have been named apprentices for the 2020 Repertory Season: SunMin Lee, Tyla Steinbach, Rubén Cítores, Lleyton Ho, and Adrian Zeisel. As apprentices, dancers will take Company class and perform corps de ballet roles in SF Ballet productions.
2020 Season Tickets
Principal series subscriptions for the 2020 Repertory Season will go on sale to the general public on August 8. The 2020 season will run from January 21 through May 7 at the War Memorial Opera House. For information, call Ticket Services at 415-865-2000, or visit sfballet.org.