SF Ballet rehearses Mere Mortals (2024)
SF Ballet dancers and choreographer Aszure Barton rehearse Mere Mortals | Credit: Grady Brannan

An anonymous donor gave $60 million to the San Francisco Ballet, the largest single gift the company has ever received and one of the largest to an American ballet company. The bulk of the gift, $50 million, is meant to help the company create new works and “revolutionize” ballet, while $10 million will go to SF Ballet’s financial health and operating costs.

One of those new works, Mere Mortals, which used the mythic story of Pandora to meditate on the consequences and challenges of artificial intelligence, had its world premiere at the SF Ballet in January, in Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s first season of programming. The work, with music by electronic music producer, Floating Points, and choreography from Aszure Barton, was a critical and audience success and returns for encore performances in April.

The unprecedented gift will allow Rojo, who previously served as the artistic director of the English National Ballet, to keep acquiring works like these and to supporting both newer and more established choreographers with diverse viewpoints.

Tamara Rojo
Tamara Rojo  Credit: Karolina Kuras

Not surprisingly, Rojo says she’s thrilled by the donor’s commitment to the company and how it will allow her to take artistic risks.

“I came to San Francisco with the goal of introducing new audiences to the ballet, expanding the repertoire, and helping move forward our collective vision of what ballet can be,” Rojo said in a statement. “This gift allows us to invest in innovative works like Mere Mortals, to work with a wide range of talented collaborators, and to change the way ballet is made.”

SF Ballet’s dedication to new work and talent development is evident with the recent launch of Creation House, which offers company members, students, and visiting artists opportunities including residencies and workshops.

This kind of imaginative work needs funding. That’s why Arturo Jacobus, the interim executive director of the company, is so thankful for the donor’s gift.

“As an innovator in dance focused on shaping the future of ballet, it’s equally important to ensure that we have the financial stability necessary to operate a world-renowned ballet company at the pinnacle of excellence,” he said in a statement. “The generosity of our donors is instrumental in supporting the company, and it is our hope that this exemplary gift will serve as a model for continued, thoughtful investment in SF Ballet for years to come.”