Can you have ballet without ballerinas? Yes. In the 18th century, women were the second sex in Western theater dance. Though some female stars were called “queens” of dance, men were known as “gods.”
Catch Sarah Van Patten on a weekend stroll up San Francisco's Chestnut Street and she might be wearing her Buffalo Bills jersey, No. 11. Catch her on a rehearsal break and she's layered up for snow. Catch her tonight at the War Memorial Opera House and she'll be made up and en pointe at the Opening Night Gala.
When I was younger I started doing jazz, tap and ballet as after school activities. Slowly, I left jazz and tap and started focusing on ballet. By the time I was eight I was dancing five days a week, and by the time I was eleven I knew that I wanted to pursue a dance career. For some dancers they see a performance as a kid and decide that they want to dance, but for me it was a gradual realization.
Van Patten joined SF Ballet in 2002 as a soloist before being promoted to principal dancer in 2007 where she has performed a number of leading roles in many Balanchine ballets, as well as in Helgi Tomasson’s staging of classics such as "Romeo and Juliet", "The Nutcracker", and "Swan Lake".
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I dance today because it is so deeply a part of me that I have little choice. But it wasn’t always that way. When I began dancing at age 6, it was one of my many after-school activities. I savored the physical challenge and the grace, and eventually chose to spend more time on dance and less on my other activities.
For general ballet-goers, the run of Romeo and Juliet that opened Saturday and continues through this week is the crowning jewel of San Francisco Ballet’s 2010 season, which takes over the War Memorial Opera House every January through May. For close followers of this internationally ascendant company, though, this R&J also serves to crown Sarah Van Patten as one of the troupe’s — indeed, one of the country’s —most powerful ballerina-artists.
Sarah is interviewed in a feature article for the online magazine Ballet.com. Carla DeFord interviewed Sarah and her mom for this article, that all started with the San Francisco Ballet's CD of their new Nutcracker.