I scoped out the emotional San Francisco Ballet alumni reunion Saturday for the Chronicle:
“Louise Lawler Pynchon had just finished gawking at a 1956 photo of herself with the San Francisco Ballet corps in “Concerto Barocco.”
“I quit dancing to marry him and have kids,” she said, pointing at her husband, Bill. “He played the violin and was in the orchestra pit. He picked three different dancers he was interested in.”
“You don’t have to go into all that,” Bill Pynchon said.
“But I won,” his wife said.
They agreed, at least, that San Francisco Ballet today was filled with “unbelievably beautiful dancers” whose conditions were a world apart from the days when S.F. Ballet toured the country by train. “They have salaries now!” Bill Pynchon said. “Benefits!”
Nostalgia ran high Saturday night at the Civic Center’s newly remodeled Museum of Performance & Design, where dozens of former Ballet members feted their former glory, and the company’s present as part of its 75th anniversary celebrations.
“I’m freaking out here!” shouted Jennifer Blake, a dancer from 1991-1999, as she hugged Duncan Cooper, whose trim figure attested to a relatively recent retirement, but who joked that he danced “from 1854 to 1937.”
“Tomorrow during the dinner, do we get up and start dancing?” he said.
“We’ll have a pirouette competition!” Blake said.
“It’ll be more like spinning and falling on the tables,” Duncan deadpanned.
Around them silver-haired former danseurs wistful for the days of flexible hips and effortless grandes battements noshed alongside 70ish primas who, a testament to their lifetimes of balletic discipline, could surely still show the young ones a mean tendu. Jocelyn Vollmar, America’s first “Nutcracker” Snow Queen back in 1944, gazed admiringly upon a green “Beauty and the Beast” tutu that would probably still fit, while Deborah Zdobinski, an alumni from the 1970s, had more mixed feelings about the displays. “In there is a costume created for me for ‘The Tempest,’ ” she said, motioning from the hall decked with brownies and canapes back toward the main gallery. “It helped me remember how skinny I used to be.”
The costumes were part of “Art and Artifice,” an exhibition celebrating “75 Years of Design at San Francisco Ballet,” and the reception was just one among a whole weekend’s worth of events for dancers who once graced the War Memorial Opera House stage. The list of attendees was illustrious, including Mikko Nissinen, now artistic director of Boston Ballet; Christopher Stowell, now artistic director of Oregon Ballet Theatre; and Suki Schorer, who danced with San Francisco Ballet in the 1950s before going on to the New York City Ballet. But it was also a big night for the Museum of Performance & Design, relaunched from the former San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum.”
Click here for the story. And apologies to the excellent soloist Frances Chung, whom I inadvertently named a corps member.