San Francisco Ballet School’s New Dormitory Is a Home Away From Home for Students

Sponsored by San Francisco Ballet
December 15, 2022

Dancing with a world-renowned company like the San Francisco Ballet is a dream for many students, and enrolling at the affiliated San Francisco Ballet School is a major step towards achieving this goal—especially considering that more than 70 percent of the current company trained there.

At SFBS, students gain access to legendary teachers, exemplary training and state-of-the-art facilities to hone their technique and artistry. Many also choose to live in the school’s dormitories, which offer a total of 52 beds during the school year and 104 during each summer session. From recent additions to the company’s corps de ballet all the way up to principal dancers like Wona Park, over 75 percent of the current company dancers who attended the school lived in the dorms, making SFBS housing not only a convenient option, but also a great place to connect with fellow dancers and future colleagues.

San Francisco Ballet principal Wona Park, here with Angelo Greco in Alexei Ratmansky’s Piano Concerto #1, is one of many current company dancers who have lived in the dorms. Photo by Erik Tomasson, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Now, with the unveiling of the recently completed Ute and William K. Bowes Jr. Center for the Performing Arts—which SFBS dancers share with students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music—living at the dorms means enjoying added amenities.

“Going into the summer, I was still auditioning for the full year,” says Maya Chandrashekaran, a current Level 8 student who attended SFB’s 2022 summer session. “When I found out that I got into the school, knowing what the dorms were like definitely made it a lot easier to say yes.”

The view from the rooftop of the Bowes Center. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Built for Convenience

According to Chandrashekaran, one of the best parts about living in the dorms is how close she is to the studio each day. The Bowes Center dormitory is just a five-minute walk from the studios, making it convenient and easy for both year-round and summer session students to access SFB’s facilities.

Having in-house meals is a game changer for dancers, adding even more ease to dorm life. João da Silva, a current SFB corps de ballet member who lived in both the old and the new dorms as a student, says, in his opinion, the dining options are the best upgrade the Bowes Center has to offer. “You don’t need to worry about making your food after a long day,” he explains.

As a student, current San Francisco Ballet corps de ballet member João da Silva (seen here in the pas de deux from Petipa’s Diana & Acteon) lived in the dorms. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

The Bowes Center offers a variety of dining options, including meals for vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free dancers. Chandrashekaran, who is both gluten- and dairy-free, says that she’s always able to find a healthy, delicious meal that meets her needs.

Safety in Mind

In addition to making sure accommodations are near the studios, the SFB team has made student safety a top priority in the dorms. At the Bowes Center, students have 24-hour security and are under the supervision of experienced dorm staff and resident advisors who are certified in CPR.

Kristin Rotte, Chandrashekaran’s mother, adds that students’ key cards only give them access to their floor, meaning that students from the San Francisco Conservatory of Music cannot access SFBS floors, and vice versa.

A student dorm room in the Bowes Center. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

Students as young as 12 will now be given the option to stay in SFB’s dorms during the 2023 summer sessions, so safety measures like these are especially important to SFBS staff—and they help provide peace of mind for parents.

“It’s reassuring that Maya is in an environment where we know she’s taken care of, and if anything happens, her friends and the residence community staff are there to assist if she needs it,” Rotte says.

The Feeling of Home

Before joining SFB’s corps in 2022, da Silva moved from his home country of Brazil in 2019 to train at the school. He says that the experience of living in the dorms and connecting with his fellow dancers played a big role in his overall well-being. “I’m very far from my family and from home, so making new friends here was very important to me,” he says.

Chandrashekaran, too, has felt a strong sense of community during her time living in the Bowes Center, fondly recalling movie nights, trips into the city for ice cream and time spent working on injury prevention with fellow dancers.

San Francisco Ballet School students, including Maya Chandrashekaran, in class. Photo by Lindsay Thomas, courtesy San Francisco Ballet.

“All the faculty and teachers are so welcoming and supportive,” Chandrashekaran says. “That was another big reason why I wanted to stay for the full year, because, overall, both the ballet side of it and the residential side of it were incredible. I felt very safe and like I could grow here, both as a dancer and a person.”

SFBS offers two four-week summer sessions, with housing in the Bowes Center. Session 1 (for ages 12 to 15) will be held June 12–July 7, 2023, and Session 2 (for ages 15 to 18) will be held July 11–August 4, 2023. Auditions for summer sessions are held in person during an audition tour (stopping in major cities) and virtually, via a video audition. More information can be found online.