When you meet Patricia Roberts for the first time at her home, you experience a Southern hospitality that reminds you of your annual summer visits to your favorite aunt and uncle’s home. Her husband, Fred Roberts, and their 6-month old Cavalier King Charles Spaniel, Poppy, greet you at the door to usher you in. Patricia’s warmth is infectious as she talks about her love of classical architecture and passion for ballet, before proudly announcing that she has recently become certified in the Gyrotonic Method. A morning visit to her home and studio in Healdsburg includes a walk through her vegetable garden of heirloom cherry tomatoes, sage, squash, apples, and roses, before meeting the hens, who love every opportunity to stay out of their coop. Roberts is at the helm of San Francisco Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala, SPELLBOUND, and thrives in her work at PDR Design, the business she founded over 25 years ago. Combined with her entrepreneurial and artistic strengths, her sharp sense of humor and hospitable nature make her a natural leader for SPELLBOUND and its ambitious fundraising goals. Even luckier for us, she brings armfuls of fresh-from-her-garden tomatoes to the studios each time she visits. Meet Patricia Roberts for yourself, and don’t be shy to say hello when you see her around the Ballet.
SF Ballet: Tell us, what drew you to ballet?
Patricia: Like many kids, I grew up taking ballet, but it wasn’t until after college, when I moved to Houston in the early 80s, that I took it seriously. I enrolled in adult ballet classes at Houston Ballet, going every night, and it became my passion and my go-to at the time. The beauty that exudes from dance made me want to understand it in-depth and learn the details behind the technique. So, I thought, the only way to understand something was to learn for myself, right? [chuckle]
SF Ballet: It certainly drew you closer to the art form. Did you work with the dancers?
Patricia: Yes, I did, and that was the exciting and inspirational part, to be so close and personal with many incredibly talented dancers, all the while, being surrounded by beautiful music. It was also a really good workout! It just became and still is my amateur obsession.
SF Ballet: And this obsession has now led you to serve as Chair of SF Ballet’s 2020 Opening Night Gala. What do you hope to gain through this experience?
Patricia: I really love the volunteering part, supporting the Ballet by raising money. I enjoy meeting new people who all share a common interest and goal. It is not easy to put on productions that are the best in the trade, like what we have here at SF Ballet. Ticket sales cannot cover all of the costs, from costumes, lighting, and set design, to recruiting dancers and orchestral musicians of a world-class caliber. So, I want to do what I can to help put the performances on stage and for ballet to be accessible for all to enjoy.
SF Ballet: You also are the founder and principal of PDR Design, an interior design firm.
Patricia: Yes, I have been a professional interior designer for many years, and currently run my business out of Healdsburg. I am also an avid classicist and study, in-depth, the teachings of classical architecture and design. These time-honored principles date back thousands of years, and reflect the laws of nature and geometry. It’s fascinating and, as in the world of music and ballet, classical principles are the basis for great design. To be a good modernist, I believe one must understand these underlying rules.
SF Ballet: In ballet, classical techniques from the likes of Petipa still very much influence much of the modern choreography we see on stage today.
Patricia: And I think the interrelationships of the choreography, and the staging, all have to make sense, even if things may appear chaotic.
SF Ballet: Tell us about how you came up with the SF Ballet 2020 Opening Night Gala theme SPELLBOUND.
Patricia: I wanted the theme to relate to the upcoming season, and when I did a quick study of the programming, the theme of magic, and being bewitched immediately jumped out at me. One day I saw the word “spellbound” flipping through a magazine, and I thought, “that’s it”! That’s how it happened to me. Productions in the 2020 Season include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Cinderella, both having elements of magic tied to them. In Cinderella, her tears drop and a tree sprouts from them, which then envelops and comforts her. In A Midsummer Night’s Dream, there is the enchanted forest where spells and tricks abound. Even in Romeo & Juliet, the poison is a magical potion, and the timing sadly goes awry. There is spellbinding love in all of these story ballets.
Additionally, the color green has been a focus in design recently, and many of the scenic elements in this year’s productions embrace nature, so I’m really into it currently.
SF Ballet: Speaking of connections, you’ve spoken before about the connection between ballet and mindfulness. Can you tell us more?
Patricia: Yes, I’ve also been an avid yoga practitioner for 30 years and recently became a certified Gyrotonic Instructor. The Gyrotonic Method is a unique, holistic approach to movement, agility, and deep internal strength. It’s funny because Kathy Van Patten (Principal Dancer Sarah Van Patten’s mother) lives in Healdsburg so it just fell in my lap to be able to take some Gyrotonic classes. It’s just this beautiful movement through a very fluid physical process, promoting physical stability and mental concentration. I find it very healthy, supportive, and organic. There is structure and at the same time, variety.
SF Ballet: Kind of like architecture.
Patricia: Yes, exactly.
SF Ballet: Structure and variety, natural and supernatural, magical and mindful–Isn’t there something to be said about ballet in all of this?
Patricia: Yes! Seeing the beauty of dance can inspire and give comfort. The expansive nature of physical and mental strength. The emotion of the accompanying music. All aspects come together to inspire and provide joy and comfort. Everyone should have access to the performing arts and feel that sense of belonging regardless of who or where they are in their journey.
Header image: Patricia Roberts // © Brandon Patoc