SAN FRANCISCO BALLET (SF Ballet) invites qualified candidates to submit applications to become its next Artistic Director. The Artistic Director is responsible for conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic direction and focus of SF Ballet and articulating this direction internally as well as to the broader community and ballet field. Serving in a co-leadership role with SF Ballet’s Executive Director, the next Artistic Director will possess a deep understanding of and commitment to classical ballet while having the ability to evolve, move, and mold the art form into the future. They will demonstrate a strong commitment to SF Ballet’s values of inclusion, diversity, equity, and access, and will build greater audience engagement by expanding platforms of program delivery as SF Ballet continues to define ballet in the 21st century.
San Francisco Ballet, long recognized for pushing boundaries in dance, has a legacy of making history. Founded in 1933, the Company staged the first full-length American production of Coppélia (1938) and Swan Lake (1940) and, in 1944, launched an annual holiday tradition that has spread across the country when the Company produced the first full-length production of The Nutcracker in the United States and continues to this day. SF Ballet is led by Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, who announced his intention to retire from his post at the conclusion of the 2021–22 season. He will leave a Company that has helped define ballet in the 21st century and has become an essential place to see the most adventurous dance in America. SF Ballet is accompanied by its own 49-member orchestra led by Music Director Martin West and operates one of the country’s most prestigious schools of ballet. The Company builds on its heritage by commissioning groundbreaking dance from today’s top choreographers, uncovering new choreographic talent, and staging modern classics and the canon of classical ballet. The mission of SF Ballet is clear, unambiguous, and lofty:
SF Ballet’s mission is to share our joy of dance with the widest possible audience, both locally and around the world, and to provide the highest caliber of dance training in our School.
We seek to enhance our position as one of the world’s finest dance companies through our vitality, innovation, and diversity, and through our uncompromising commitment to artistic excellence based in the classical ballet tradition.
With an ambitious mission, SF Ballet has not been immune to the call for ballet genre to examine and address the call for systemic change. SF Ballet has taken a hard look at its organization to address where it has fallen short, and to rethink and invest in policies, practices, and performances that make everyone in its community feel included, supported, and valued. A commitment to integrating inclusion, diversity, equity and access (IDEA) into all its practices began in 2018 and was most recently deepened with actions taken by its Board of Trustees and Employees.
SF Ballet’s accomplishments over its 88-year history are legion and the Company’s extensive touring has thrilled audiences around the world from Paris to New York, London to Shanghai. On its 75th Anniversary Season in 2008, SF Ballet produced the New Works Festival of ten world premieres with some of the dance world’s most acclaimed choreographers. A decade later, the 2018 Unbound Festival built on that success with 12 new works presented over 17 days. As one of the few ballet companies with multiple Emmy and Grammy awards, SF Ballet has received many accolades, including the 2019 Jerome Robbins Award for excellence in dance. More information about the organization can be found on their website: https://www.sfballet.org/
San Francisco Ballet School. The SF Ballet School, founded the same year as the Company, is one of the most important training centers in the country for aspiring professional dancers. Under the leadership of SF Ballet School Director Patrick Armand, the School has a dual mission: to train classical ballet dancers capable of joining the ranks of SF Ballet and other world-class companies; and to offer young children and adults in the Bay Area an introduction to ballet and the joy of moving to music. SF Ballet School offers a challenging curriculum, taught by faculty members with experience from SF Ballet and ballet companies around the world. The School is a fundamental part of the institution—nearly 70% of the Company’s dancers trained in the SF Ballet School. Currently offering both in-person and virtual classes, SF Ballet School has over 400 students enrolled (down from 550+ pre-COVID). Significantly, the pre-professional program has maintained enrollment of approximately 300 students. Despite the pandemic, SF Ballet partnered with the San Francisco Conservatory of Music to open a dormitory, The Bowes Center, for upper-level students. The Center began welcoming students in October 2020 and has been a key component to reopening classes to advanced pre-professional dancers for in-person training.
Community Engagement. Equally important is SF Ballet’s commitment to the community. For 41 years, the Company has partnered with SF Unified School District (SFUSD) to provide all-access dance education programs for PreK–12 students. The Company also partners with several community-based organizations to provide free dance classes. During the pandemic, SF Ballet’s education programs reached more students than ever—113,000 households and counting—via a new TV program, in partnership with SFUSD, titled “SF Loves Learning.” SF Ballet’s “Nutcracker Online” was made available to Boys and Girls Clubs and local hospitals throughout the Bay area to share the joy of the tradition, even during the pandemic. Further, SF Ballet utilized its outdoor drive-thru location in partnership with the SF Marin Food Bank to provide a weekly pop-up location in the Civic Center neighborhood. Over 13,000 bags of groceries were distributed during a period where there was an increase in food insecurity in the community.
City & Region. San Francisco is one of the country’s most beautiful cities and one of the top travel destinations in the world. The Bay Area, a center of global innovation, is a uniquely diverse and progressive community, and home to a robust arts and cultural environment, including the SF Opera, SF Symphony, 300 theater companies, world-class museums, and two great universities, Stanford and the University of California, Berkeley. The city has attracted some of the most entrepreneurial and innovative tech companies, including Airbnb, Intuit, Square, Lucasfilm, Google, Twitter, Uber, and Salesforce. Located on the Pacific Coast of Northern California, San Francisco is a vibrant intersection of culture, business, and technology. With close to 900,000 residents, the City is the anchor for the greater Bay Area, the second largest metro region in the U.S. and one of the most diverse regions.
Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer
SF Ballet’s artistic vision has been led by Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson since 1985, the longest-serving artistic leader in the country. An acclaimed principal with George Balanchine and New York City Ballet, Tomasson brought a dynamic vision and pursuit of excellence to the Company, transforming SF Ballet from a respected regional troupe to one of the world’s great classical ballet companies. In 2012, he was celebrated with the Dance/USA Honor for his contributions to dance in America and the world-wide dance community. For more detail: http://www.sfballet.org/artist/helgi-tomasson/
Kelly Tweeddale, Executive Director
Tweeddale joined SF Ballet as Executive Director in 2019, bringing a career dedicated to connecting people and places through the performing arts. She is recognized for forging paths of notable growth in audience building and innovation, and as a dedicated advocate for women in leadership. Previous leadership roles include tenures with The Cleveland Orchestra, Seattle Opera, Vancouver Symphony Orchestra, and the VSO School of Music. She has a degree in Communications and Advertising from the University of Washington, where she also studied ballet with Balanchine protégé Ruthanna Boris. She is a graduate of the National Arts Strategies Chief Executive Program that provided business and leadership training at Harvard Business School and Ross School of Business (University of Michigan). For more detail: http://www.sfballet.org/the-company/artists/executive-director/
Board of Trustees
San Francisco Ballet Association is governed by a Board of Trustees consisting of 50 business and community leaders. Sunnie Evers and Robert G. Shaw serve as Co-chairs of the Board and Executive Committee. Carl F. Pascarella serves as the President. The San Francisco Ballet Endowment Fund is governed by an eight-person Board of Directors, led by President Nancy Kukacka.
In March 2020, SF Ballet was the first major arts organization in the country to be forced to suspend performances due to Covid-19 in compliance with the city’s shelter-in-place order. The Company pivoted to an all-access free streaming strategy, as well as a professional capture of Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream for donors and ticketholders, while simultaneously raising $5 million via a crowd-sourced Critical Relief Fund. The organization successfully launched the 2021 “Leap of Faith” digital season on multiple apps (Roku, AppleTV, Amazon Firestick) and via an embedded Vimeo OTT that has included Nutcracker Online (full-length, professionally filmed), and Jewels, featuring a new digital capture of “Emeralds,” Tomasson’s productions of Romeo and Juliet and Swan Lake, as well as three programs of mixed repertory including world premieres from Myles Thatcher and Danielle Rowe. For the upcoming season, the Company expects to perform its production of Nutcracker in December 2021 at the War Memorial Opera House as well as a seven-program season that will be announced in the coming months.
Venue and Facilities
Home of the San Francisco Opera and San Francisco Ballet, the War Memorial Opera House opened in 1932 with TIME magazine declaring it “…a house made possible by all the people of San Francisco.” Designed by Arthur Brown, Jr., this cultural landmark is one of the last Beaux-Arts structures built in the United States. During the pandemic, the SF Ballet joined forces with the SF Opera and War Memorial Opera House board to expedite a major capital improvement project that replaced and improved the seats and sightlines. SF Ballet’s own headquarters is a 70,000-square-foot bright and well-maintained building featuring nine studios ranging in size from 1,350 to 5,000 square feet as well as the SF Ballet School and administrative offices. Production facilities are housed in an off-site warehouse located within the city limits for ease and convenience.
Size and Scope
Prior to Covid-19, SF Ballet operated on an annual budget of approximately $55M with an earned/contributed ratio of approximately 48%/52%. For the 2021 season, the organization reduced expenses by 30% for a total budget of $38M. The organization employs 250+ full-time employees and 500+ part-time and seasonal employees. The professional company consists of 22 principals, 16 soloists, 36 corps de ballet, and 6 apprentices. SF Ballet has collective bargaining agreements with seven unions including the American Guild of Musical Artists (AGMA), the American Federation of Musicians (AFM), and the International Alliance of Theatrical Stage Employees (IATSE).
INCLUSION, DIVERSITY, EQUITY, AND ACCESS (IDEA)
SF Ballet is deeply committed to its Inclusion, Diversity, Equity, and Access (IDEA) strategy intended to drive profound change, from the boardroom to every aspect of the organization’s operations and culture. SF Ballet has acknowledged its history beginning with its “Where We Stand” statement and the Board of Trustees has publicly issued the following commitment:
“The San Francisco Ballet Board of Trustees is committed to actively promoting inclusion, diversity, equity, and access throughout the San Francisco Ballet organization, to ensure that we are truly welcoming to all.
Our Board invites and promotes the inclusion of different perspectives, which in turn improves oversight and demonstrates our determination to foster a culture free of conscious and unconscious bias, from the boardroom to the stage. In service of this commitment, we embrace and respect those of varying socio-economic, cultural, and racial backgrounds, all of whom bring value and vibrancy to the workplace and to our company.
We believe that dance has the capacity to inspire people of all backgrounds and bring joy to their lives. The future of ballet depends on its ability to be inclusive, and to attract new and more diverse audiences.
We pledge to amplify the voices that reflect the diversity of our local and global communities, and to make sustainable change the legacy of our leadership.”
Over the last year, SF Ballet’s internal workforce has come together to establish an Inclusion Advisory Group sponsored by the artistic director and executive director to bring a diverse range of perspectives and ideas around our IDEA work. Employee Resource Groups have also been established, and to date three groups have come together in support of BIPOC employees, LGBTQIA+ initiatives, and ability/disability awareness.
OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES
The people who comprise SF Ballet—dancers, staff, faculty, trustees—have a universal commitment to its success. This is an organization that has achieved international acclaim and has the desire to continue to build its artistic and administrative excellence. Among the opportunities for the next Artistic Director of SF Ballet are these:
- Creating a future artistic vision that builds on the Company’s legacy and relationship to its home community of San Francisco as well as on the role the Company plays on the international stage.
- Developing and expanding audiences by seeking additional venues and expanding platforms of program delivery.
- Advancing the work of the SF Ballet School and reinforcing its relationship with the professional company.
- Embracing the organization’s commitment to drive inclusion, diversity, equity, and access in all of its strategies and objectives.
Along with these opportunities, there are challenges the next Artistic Director must embrace in concert with the Executive Director and Board, including:
- Staying relevant to audiences in an era of increased competition, particularly within San Francisco’s changing and competitive arts and cultural landscape.
- Balancing programming in a way that retains SF Ballet’s commitment to the classics while continuing to identify and nurture contemporary and emerging choreographers.
- Addressing the increasing production costs of large-scale ballet productions.
- Aligning resources in a manner that will help achieve SF Ballet’s strategic goals.
POSITION AND RESPONSIBILITIES
The Artistic Director and Executive Director of SF Ballet serve in a co-leadership structure, each reporting directly to the Board of Trustees. The Artistic Director is responsible for conceiving, developing, and implementing the artistic direction and focus of SF Ballet and articulating this direction internally as well as to the broader community and ballet field. Serious candidates will possess a deep understanding of and commitment to classical ballet while having the ability to evolve, move, and mold the art form into the future. The Committee will consider candidates who have not previously held artistic director positions but who will need to demonstrate an ability to work effectively in a collective leadership environment, which will include the Executive Director, School Director, and the Board of Trustees. Candidates need not be choreographers; however, those who are must be able to demonstrate the level of choreographic excellence for which SF Ballet is known and show the ability to curate and commission work from top-tier choreographers.
The primary responsibilities of the Artistic Director are these:
- Develop, articulate, and execute a clear artistic vision aligned with SF Ballet’s mission.
- Direct and lead all of the artistic and production functions of the organization.
- Recruit, motivate, develop, and inspire a world-class company of dancers.
- Forge an effective working relationship with the Executive Director, developing strategies to balance artistic ambition with available resources, ensuring SF Ballet’s artistic and fiscal vibrancy.
- Ensure the SF Ballet School remains as high functioning as the professional company and expands its role as a talent pipeline to the professional company and international field.
- Fully embrace the organization’s commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, and access with demonstrable evidence to IDEA values in current and previous work.
- Work closely with the senior executive team and Board to accomplish audience development and fund-raising objectives.
- Take an assertive role in forging collaborations with local, national, and international partners.
- Serve as a principal voice of SF Ballet in the community.
Ideally, the successful candidate for this role will possess many of these skills and experiences:
Artistry and Training
- A deep knowledge of classical ballet repertoire as well as modern and contemporary ballet from both a formance background and a producing perspective.
- A highly accomplished ballet artist and a skilled teacher and developer of talent who can maintain high artistic standards within the company.
- An innovator of the art form.
- A background in staging and producing works of significance.
- A commitment to dance training for children, young people, and adults as well as pre-professional dancer development.
- An ability to articulate an exciting and inspirational vision and aesthetic.
- A strategic thinker with the desire and ability to work collaboratively with the Executive Director, Board of Trustees, and a high functioning team in a large, complex organization.
- A background that clearly demonstrates a commitment to inclusion, diversity, equity, access, and an understanding of what living these values means in an institutional context.
Administration and Production
- Ideally, senior artistic management experience in an organization of significant size and scope, including knowledge of budgets, fundraising, and audience development.
- Clear understanding of (and ideally, background in) producing, engaging with design, technical, and production staff and the ability to work within available resources.
- Keen awareness of the operational needs of a major ballet company and ballet school.
- Strong social and interpersonal skills, with a desire to represent SF Ballet in multiple business, artistic, and social contexts.
- A deep commitment to developing, nurturing, and fostering a welcoming environment for dancers of diverse backgrounds, individually and as an ensemble.
- A transparent, open, collaborative, and confident leadership style.
- A desire to be fully rooted in and a representative of the San Francisco/Bay Area arts community.
COMPENSATION, APPLICATION PROCEDURE, AND START DATE
The salary and benefits will be highly competitive with other ballet companies of comparable stature and size. SF Ballet has engaged Management Consultants for the Arts to facilitate this search; David Mallette, Jason Palmquist, and Shruti Adhar are the consultants leading the process. The Search Committee of nine SF Ballet trustees hopes to make its decision by late 2021, with the new Artistic Director ideally beginning early to mid-2022. Interested and qualified candidates are encouraged to apply in complete confidence by providing materials requested below with these guidelines:
• A cover letter (maximum 1½ pages) describing why this post is attractive to the applicant and what about them and their work makes them a potentially strong artistic leader for SF Ballet
• Resumé or CV
• On a separate document, responses to the following questions. Please keep the response to each question to 250–500 words (i.e., a maximum of two pages total):
1. In your view, what does ballet in the 21st century look like? In what ways do you see the art form evolving? Give us an example of an innovative project you have worked on.
2. Please offer examples of how a commitment to IDEA has impacted your work and provide a short narrative of your commitment to these values.
3. Describe how you view the relationship of a professional company and school.
4. How will you approach a co-leadership role with an Executive Director? What do you see as the essential elements for a successful working relationship?
• Four professional references, including email and phone contact information.
• Each file should have the applicant’s name included as part of the file name.
• Materials must be submitted via this link: https://mcaonline.com/searches/artistic-director-san-francisco-ballet