SF Ballet Dancers


Photos Courtesy: SF Ballet & K.Gabay

SAN FRANCISCO, CA--A unique series of  ON STAGE performances by the students of the SF Ballet School, their  work created as part of the Helgi Tomasson Choreographic Workshop, will be held at the Blue Shield Theatre at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts in San Francisco on the following days:

 Wednesday  May 24,. at 7:30 PM
Student Demonstration (Karen Gabay) Frescoes (Arthur Saint-Leon and Marius Petipa) Stereo is King (Sana Genshaft) Except from Beauty and the Beast (Lew Christensen) and Myles Thatcher World Premiere.
Thursday, May 25 at 6 PM
Students Demonstration (Karen Gabay) Byramides (Raphael Bessey and Myles Thatcher) New works.
Friday, May 26 at 7:30 PM
Student Demonstration (Karen Gabay) Frescoes (Arthur Saint-Leon and Marious Petipa) We (Viktor Plotnikov) Stereo is King  (Dana Genshaft)Excerpt from Beauty and the Beast (Lew Christensen) and Myles Thatcher New Work.

In an exclusive interview with Karen Gabay, who has choreographed the Festival for years, Cultural World Bilingual she gave us the following information:

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C.W.B. What is the SF Ballet Spring Festival?
K.G.: "It may be described as a showcase to show the combination of all the work (learning) that the students at SF Ballet School did during their school year, so, for me, as the Festival's choreographer, it means that I have to prepare a students' demonstration. I have to take all the kids, from level two, ranging in age from 8 to 10 years old, and go from level 2 to level 8, and put all the classes together and do a thirty minute ballet. The purpose of this Ballet is for them to show (their parents and the public) the new techniques and new ballet steps they learned during the year. For me, to show the steps that the younger levels learned is simpler."

SF Ballet

K.G: "But I still have to continue checking all the other levels until I get to levels 7 and 8 where things are more difficult because their performances (At the Festival) has to look like a real ballet. For those who come to the Festival, to see what the kids can do, it will be surprising. The reason will be the realization that these kids are actually dancing and their show is a dance, not a recital. Every one of us, the choreographers, choreographed pieces for their groups  and every one of  these pieces must look professional, specially the performances which  are meant  for the advance levels."

C.W.B: How many students participate in the festival?

K.G: It varies each year, but this year, the public is going to be looking at l08 kids, from levels 2 to 8.

C.W.B: How do you define your work as a dance teacher, Karen?

K.G. "I love it. It taught me that when teaching to dance to another person, you need to convey to your students not only the dancing technique stuff, but they also need to learn to convey their enthusiasm for what they are doing to their audience, and not only feel the role that they are interpreting when dancing, but express it in their movements".

C.W.B. How old are your students?

C.G. "My students are at the Level 8, so maybe around 16 or l9, which is the most advance level in the school because they are at the cusp of getting to be professional dancers. So, at the end of this school year, a lot of them are going to actually go out and try to the find a studio or a place to get apprenticeships with the SF Ballet, which is the next step in the apprenticeship of the company. The SF Ballet school has such a high reputation that a number of our students go directly to work into to a professional Career.  

Karen Gabay performing

As a former ballet dancer, Karen Gabay defines ballet as: "Something that will always remain a challenge to her, because when you dances, you always strive for perfection. But ballet, for me, is the enjoyment of moving through space with music, expressing yourself in a unique quality."

She began her dancing ballet with lessons at the San Diego Parks and Recreation center when she was 8 years old.  After a few months of lessons, she auditioned for a role in the Ballet The Nutcracker, was accepted and she enjoyed it because she loved the music. She continued playing roles in The Nutcracker every year, but her roles were changing, as she was growing up. Her last one,  eight years later, she played the Sugar Plumb.

Karen Gabay made her professional debut as a dancer at age 18 with the Cleveland Ballet and came to San Jose, California, in the year 2000, when the Cleveland Ballet ceased operation in Cleveland and half the dancers and artistic director/choreographer Dennis Nahat moved to San José to continue operations with Karen Gabay as the Prima Ballerina (the ballet's principal dancer) of Ballet San Jose Silicon Valley (Later shortened to Ballet San Jose) where for years she danced all the principal roles but said that she preferred those roles which required acting.

When asked her what was the role that she considered her most difficult, she would say as a swam, in Swan Lake, and then explaining that the reason is that as a Ballet, Swan lake is very technical and that physically, the dancer needs to represent (interpret) two different characters in one night. She added that the dancer also needs lots of stamina because it is a three act ballet.

Sadly for the city of San Jose, on May 9, 2016 Ballet San Jose, ceased operations as the primary area dance company South of San Francisco.

As a former dancer, Karen Gabay earned many honors, too many to enumerate, but. one of the highlights of her long career was that she danced in Queen Margrethe's Silver Anniversary Gala in Denmark with Peter Schaufuss and was part of the Cynthia Gregory's "Galaxy' tour to South America. Another great honor, that she danced the role of Swanhilda to Rudolf Nureyev Dr.Coppelius at the Edinburgh Festival in Scotland and Ireland.

As a choreographer, she has been awarded The Artist Fellowship Award for Choreography by the Arts Council Silicon Valley and garnered a nomination in the Outstanding Achievement in Choreography at the Isadora Duncan Dance Awards (The Izzies) She is an ABT Certified Teacher (level 7) and a certified instructor for Progressive Ballet technique. She has written a Children's book and also acted on film and television.