As they enter SF Ballet’s Nutcracker Benefit Luncheon, Boys & Girls Club members are welcomed into a magical, wintry world of candy houses, sweet treats, and real-life Nutcracker characters. For the past four years, SF Ballet has partnered with Boy & Girls Club of San Francisco (BGCSF) to provide their members free weekly ballet classes, school year dance residencies, and an annual Summer Dance Camp. But there’s something extra special about the annual Nutcracker Benefit Luncheon. Is it dreams of sugar plum fairies? Perfectly Instagrammable photo moments? Or, once the luncheon ends and dessert plates are wiped clean, that they get to experience the wonder and excitement of watching Nutcracker from some of the best seats in the Opera House?
BGCSF is about as close as a partner can be—the Don Fisher Clubhouse sits just down the block from the SF Ballet building. And while this neighborhood partnership is relatively new, youth-focused community engagement has long been a part of SF Ballet. For the past 40 years, the organization has provided free dance education programs to K–12 schoolchildren in San Francisco through a variety of organizations. But at BGCSF—just a hop, skip, and jump away from SF Ballet’s studios—the connections to SF Ballet are especially empowering for budding artists and community leaders. “This type of engagement is powerful for Boys & Girls Club youth, who are often disconnected from the schools, institutions, and communities where they live,” says Joni Lachman, BGCSF’s Vice President of Institutional Gifts. “Youth participating in this partnership are now ambassadors for arts in San Francisco and, as they grow up, will find a place for themselves in the larger SF arts world.”
Attending the Nutcracker Luncheon taps into ballet’s capacity to delight and inspire. In addition to meeting dancers in costume and a very special guest (spoiler—it’s Santa Claus!), children attending the Luncheon also enjoy Nutcracker-inspired arts and crafts; fun photo moments with Nutcracker characters; ice cream sundaes; and even a Build-a-Bear station, where they create their own souvenir teddy bear.
After the Luncheon, the kids make their way to the War Memorial Opera House to see the characters they just met come to life on stage. “My favorite part was the bear dancing,” says Kyla, a BGCSF member, “I wish I could see the show all the time.”
Make it possible for children like Kyla to see Nutcracker this holiday season. This year will be extra special as SF Ballet celebrates the 75th anniversary of the American premiere of the complete Nutcracker, held in 1944.
If you are interested in donating tickets to the Nutcracker Luncheon to a local Boys & Girls Clubhouse, or purchasing tickets so you can attend the event yourself, please contact Meg Sullivan via email at email@example.com or call her directly at 415-865-6625. For a preview of the event and more information, visit sfballet.org/nutbenefit.
Header image: SF Ballet Principal Dancer Mathilde Froustey with attendees of the Nutcracker Benefit Luncheon // Arthur Kobin for Drew Altizer Photography