On the Road

November 15, 2011


Photos by Quinn Wharton


During summer layoff, dancers escape the day-to-day routine of company life. Some use the free time to embark on their own ballet adventures. In June, Tiit Helimets, a principal with San Francisco Ballet, gathered a group of colleagues and took them on tour to his home country of Estonia. “I’d never done anything like this,” Helimets says. “It felt as if I’d suddenly become a father to 15 people.” The dancers, from San Francisco Ballet, Ballet San Jose and Milwaukee Ballet, had just two weeks to rehearse in San Francisco before boarding the plane to Tallinn, Estonia’s capital. The program included George Balanchine’s Apollo and Val Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House, plus a handful of pas de deux from ballets like Frederick Ashton’s Cinderella and Marius Petipa’s Le Corsaire. “I wanted to show Estonian audiences the power of American dancers,” Helimets says. The exuberant applause in the Estonian National Opera House made it clear he succeeded. “They were clapping and stomping in unison,” says dancer Sarah Van Patten. “Apparently, it’s their ultimate response.”