Reflections from our Board President on touring with LINES Ballet in Russia


By Craig Cramer

The first time I saw ballet I was in Russia. It was the Bolshoi at the magnificent Mariinksy Theater in St. Petersburg. When I learned last summer that LINES would be performing in Russia in November, including at the Mariinsky, I knew it would be a special opportunity for the company. I also thought it could be a once in a lifetime opportunity for LINES supporters to share the LINES experience beyond its home theater at YBCA.

We believe there is no finer art being created in the Bay Area than in the LINES’ studio on Seventh and Mission. Every Spring and Fall, LINES presents this art to the Bay Area at YBCA. But, for much of the year the company is away from its Bay Area home touring the world. Bringing our supporters with us lets them see more of LINES. “More of LINES” includes not just more performances. What we see on stage with LINES is beautiful and moving. What happens away from the stage makes it all the more meaningful – and fun. What better place to experience that than in Russia? As Alonzo said about the importance of ballet in Russia: “Ballet was codified in France and glorified in Russia.”

Despite the glorious history, there were some hesitations. It’s cold in Russia in November. Very cold. LINES doesn’t have the staff to plan and guide a trip to Russia. Is it even safe for Americans in Russia? I knew from numerous previous trips to Russia that these concerns shouldn’t get in the way. Cold is part of the Russia experience. There’s no shortage of historical and cultural sites to keep visitors busy.

And geopolitical tensions make headlines, but shouldn’t keep one from seeing the world.

Twelve LINES’ supporters – including Board members and other friends of LINES – arrived with the company in Moscow. Everyone on the trip had seen LINES perform at YBCA many times, including as recently as two weeks before leaving for Russia. As the below pictures show, I think you will agree there is something special about being with LINES away from home. Bringing our supporters with us on tour, whether in person or virtually as in this blog post (and our other outreach), deepens the LINES experience. It’s what happens when you’re a part of sharing with the world the beautiful art created in San Francisco.

Few places are as elevated in the world of ballet as Russia. But, LINES’ touring schedule is not limited to places like the Mariinsky Theater in St. Petersburg.

The places LINES performs are as varied as the diverse cast of dancers and musical collaborators for which LINES is famous.

As wonderful as the Russia experience was, I’m equally excited that the company takes its beautiful artistry to places that otherwise don’t get visits by world-class performing arts organizations. Places that couldn’t be any more different from Russia (or, San Francisco.) Later this month, LINES will be performing in the small town of Cleveland, Mississippi, as part of our tour across the southern United States. More on that later.

For now please enjoy these photos showing what it’s like to be with Alonzo King LINES Ballet on tour in Russia..

Cover photo by Franck Thibault, head shot by Cody Chen; gallery photos by Craig Cramer