Honoring 25 years with Ballet Master Arturo Fernandez

This is Arturo Fernandez’s last season with the company as LINES Ballet’s Ballet Master. There are few things we could do to accurately express the love, gratitude and honor we have for him. For the last 25 years he’s traveled on countless tours and preserved and passed on countless hours of choreography to our dancers. His dedication, passion and care will not soon be forgotten. Below is a brief message from Arturo, and following that are a collection of notes from current and past LINES Ballet dancers, to share just a glimpse of the huge impact Arturo has had on our company and our history. From the bottom of our hearts – we say thanks!

From Arturo Fernandez

This year marks my 25th and final year as Ballet Master at LINES Ballet. I met Alonzo in 1982 when I started taking classes from him while I was still dancing. Twenty-five years later, it has been a tremendous honor and work of love to be associated with this world-renowned company and my friend, Alonzo King. I am so very grateful for the long and fruitful history here and I’m happy to have called this special place my artistic home.

During my tenure at LINES Ballet, I have had the privilege to work alongside the genius Alonzo King, supporting the creation of over 48 of his ballets. I have traveled around the world with the Company, mentored and developed a number of young dancers, choreographed original works for members of LINES Ballet and our esteemed Education Programs, and set many of Alonzo’s ballets on other companies.

Given that LINES Ballet has been my home for so long, the decision to step down as Ballet Master has not been an easy one, but I leave it in the very capable hands of my dear friend and partner in crime, Meredith Webster. And although I will no longer be Ballet Master, I will continue to teach classes for the LINES Ballet Education Programs – ensuring that the LINES Ballet lineage is passed on to our extraordinary students.

I am also touched and honored to announce that LINES Ballet is launching the new Arturo Fernandez Scholarship for student dancers of color in LINES Ballet Education Programs. This scholarship is designed to support student dancers who would not have the opportunity to pursue a career in dance without financial help. In my own experience as a student of dance, professional dancer and teacher, I know firsthand how critical this support is and I look forward to mentoring the future recipients.

Thank you to Alonzo and the LINES Ballet family for everything.

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From Adji Cissoko, current LINES Ballet dancer

Dear Arturo!
I don’t even know where to start,
all I know is that you hold a special place in my heart!
When I joined LINES I was a big disaster,
but lucky for me you were our ballet master!
Step by step you helped me understand,
what this new world and its choreography meant!
By teaching me how to “really move “,
you helped me to improve!
So many times all the corrections left me feeling confused,
until I heard them with the words you used!
Your memory is one of a kind,
Every phrase of all previous ballets are stored safely in your mind!
I always know that if I have trouble with a certain section,
I can turn to you for the perfect correction!
From across the room I can feel the “Arturo gaze”,
and suddenly there’s a smile on my face!
I’m going to miss you so much,
please stay in touch!

From Laurel Keen, past LINES Ballet dancer


Thank you for being able to see the details and the larger landscape at the same time. Thank you for your honesty and firm pushes as well as your patience and words of comfort. Thank you for believing. Belief in us, belief in the work and belief in the steady quest for more. Thank you for demonstrating discovery which was impossible not to follow. Thank for making every class new and never getting comfortable. Thank you for asking more of yourself everyday and in turn demanding that we do the same. Thank you for shaping us and yet giving us the room to change. Thank you for seeing us.

May you find joy and peace in whatever comes next…

From Kara Wilkes, past LINES Ballet dancer

“A teacher affects eternity; he can never tell where his influence stops.” – Henry Adams


I remember my first European tour with LINES, you were coaching me in my last crazy Rasa solo. It was still new to me, and I’d blanked out while dancing it during a rehearsal run. But you continued giving me the green light to go nuts with it; you told me that if I forgot what came next, no one would know…just keep going. You pushed, gave me clear direction, and encouraged me. During the next show, when I came offstage from the solo (feeling uncertain of what the hell had just happened) I was startled to look up and see you there in the wings above me, up on some random balcony/scaffolding. You were pointing down at me excitedly, saying, “That’s what I’m talking about! THAT’S WHAT I’M TALKING ABOUT!!!” Haha! I’ll never forget that moment. Thank you for your love, your constant dedication, your humor, your trust…and for showing me I was capable of more than I realized. All you gave, and all you continue to give to Lines Ballet, won’t be soon forgotten.

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From John Michael Stuart, past LINES Ballet dancer

A few months ago Meredith sent me your “farewell” email to the company. I have been sitting with it for some time and wanted to in turn say my many thanks to you.
Thank you for being a positive and grounding force in my life for four years.

Thank you for allowing me to grow into the artist I could become. You always patiently encouraged, and reminded, me that more was possible and that I could become more.

Thank you for cautioning me against some of my lesser angels and helping me keep perspective.

Thank you for serving selflessly for decades in an, at times, thankless position. It is not easy to be the second-in-command and to without ego carry out a larger artistic vision. You served Alonzo, the company, and yourself with great magnanimity.

When I look back at my career as a dancer, you stand out as one of the chief mentors who shaped who I am now. I tell everyone that asks that you are the greatest Ballet Master I ever had the honor to work with, and that all rehearsal directors should take a pilgrimage to learn under you.

Thank you for your service. Thank you for your generosity. Thank you for shaping myself and so many artists.

Congratulations on your new path forward as Ballet Master Emeritus. It is well-deserved and an honorific only you could have earned.

I hope to see you again soon Arturo.

From Pam Hagen, co-founder of Alonzo King LINES Ballet

My friend,LINES has grown and been shaped by heartfelt and nourishing energy given by so many over the years. Many have been a part of it for a time, but only a very few have given so much, so consistently for so long as you have. This art form asks so much of all who practice it, but it is an extraordinary opportunity to expand beyond the limitations we all put on ourselves. You helped dancers to dare, to abandon, to believe in the powerful beauty that is in each of us – what a gift to have the ability to touch other lives in that way, what satisfaction it must bring you.

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From Maddie DeVries, current LINES Ballet dancer

Arturo!! You will be immensely missed. These last 3 years have been the most shaping years of my life and I would not be who I am today without your encouragement, support, humor, love, and very fast tendu fondu pas de bourre tendu fouetté soutenu combinations, which by the way — I’d love if you taught us still!!! I will never forget your FULL OUT showings of what the step is and how to do it articulately with dynamics, intention, and full of new choices. Your devotion to the work and always striving to help us reach for more will also always remain with me. You are irreplaceable. Thank you for all the many many years you’ve dedicated to LINES Ballet. I’m so honored that I was able to dance at LINES Ballet with you as my ballet master. Thank you Arturo!!!

From Marina Hotchkiss, past LINES Ballet dancer and current LINES Ballet BFA Program Director

Arturo! You are woven so deeply into the fabric of LINES I can’t really imagine it without you! Your steadfast and insightful work as a teacher and rehearsal director for all these years laid a foundation that allowed the company to grow and flourish, for new dancers to dive into these unfamiliar waters with guidance, and all with a very wicked and welcome sense of humor. And can I just say that your mind is a wonder? Steps, counts, entrances, exits, nuances, intentions, connections…not to mention a seemingly bottomless sea of devilishly difficult and inventive class combinations!! I have learned so much from you, and I am very grateful to continue our relationship through the BFA program, sharing your many gifts with our students.

From Laura O’Malley, past LINES Ballet dancer

I love watching Arturo watch people dance. He’s so engaged, and clearly lives and dances every step with them. Even though he hasn’t been dancing for a few years now, he still experiences and feels everything that dancers do, and this translates in what he gives–both in his class, and the feedback he gives to inspire greatness in rehearsal.  We’ve all learned a great deal from working with him. He’s quick, bright, energetic, incredibly detail oriented, and has a sense of humor, which is truly the best combination in a mentor. I know Alonzo and the LINES dancers will miss him a lot!!!!

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From Caroline Rocher, past LINES Ballet dancer

I wish I could make it to Arturo’ s last home season!

I loved working with him from the first day we met. (I was performing in Berkeley with Lyon Opera Ballet and Arturo was our guest teacher. I LOVED his class!)  Little that I knew a few months later I got into Lines Ballet and Arturo had 3 weeks to teach me the repertoire before going on tour to Europe.

I recall one funny memory: While on tour in Jacksonhole, Wyoming, Arturo decided to teach technique class to pop music instead of using the regular ballet score. It was quite cheerful, and it uplifted everyone spirit, especially when we did the grand battement combination to Usher’s hit “yeah!”

Thank you so much for all your advice and guidance dear Arturo. Big hugs ;-)!

From Yujin Kim, current LINES Ballet dancer

I have so much gratitude for Arturo’s amazing sense of humor and rich kindness in heart. It turned hard long tours to short and joyful ones. It was so wonderful seasons with you 🙂 !

Love and hugs.

From Debra Rose, past LINES Ballet dancer

I’ll never forget the first time I met Arturo in Alonzo’s morning class when he was still dancing for ODC. I was struck by his mastery of form, his speed and precision, his beauty, but most of all his generosity of spirit. As a Ballet Master, his amazing ability to be invisible or magnified as needed is testimony to his humility and selfless service. It is impossible to measure the huge impact you’ve had on all of our lives. Thank you Arturo for all you did to support me in my career and for making LINES what it is.

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From Tammy Cheney, LINES Ballet Summer Program Director

Arturo, I have always known you as the Ballet Master for LINES Ballet and it goes without saying that you are an integral part of everything LINES! I first stepped into your ballet class at the Dance Center at 50 Oak in 1994 and was blown away by the fire and excitement you brought into the studio and the personal attention you gave each student week after week. I know firsthand how much you give and how much students receive by working with you. You are an exceptional teacher with a generous heart and I am so looking forward to your continued participation in the Summer Program for many, many years to come!

From Gregory Dawson, past LINES Ballet dancer

Wonderful work Arturo! Congratulations! I learned much from your wisdom.

Thank you.

From Ricardo Zayas, past LINES Ballet dancer

Your contribution to LINES is immeasurable. I don’t know how you did it!  Congrats!!!

From Karah Abiog, LINES Ballet Training Program Director

Arturo, you are truly amazing! You’ve spent nearly half of your life dedicated to evoking great work from every dancer who has come through LINES these last 25 years.  That’s impressive. Deepest thanks for being so inspiring and challenging for the Training Program students.  You have imparted so much knowledge through your classes and works and amidst your Tasmanian Devil speed! And did I mention what a funny and witty guy you are? You’re just a little bundle of goodness and we are lucky to have you.

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Join us as we bid a fond farewell to this incredible man in his final season with LINES Ballet. May 4-14 at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. 

Cover photo by Quinn B. Wharton, article photos (in order) by Quinn B. Wharton, Arturo Fernandez, Austin Forbord, Andy Mogg and RJ Muna.