Congratulations to Ballet Masters Betsy Erickson and Anita Paciotti! Both were recognized as Christensen Society Honorees at SF Ballet’s annual Chairman’s Council Dinner in November. Named in memory of the three brothers (Willam, Lew, and Harold Christensen) whose artistic vision pioneered SF Ballet, the Christensen Society selects one or two honorees each year, recognizing individuals who have made a significant contribution (artistic or otherwise) to San Francisco Ballet.
Betsy Erickson began her formal dance training on a Ford Foundation Scholarship at San Francisco Ballet School, where she studied with Lew and Harold Christensen and Anatole Vilzak. In addition, she studied for many years with Valentina Pereyslavic and Hector Zaraspe in New York.
Erickson spent 20 years dancing professionally with San Francisco Ballet and American Ballet Theatre. Her repertory with SF Ballet included principal roles in works by George Balanchine, Lew Christensen, Jerome Robbins, and Michael Smuin. The central pas de deux in Lew Christensen’s Vivaldi Concerto Grosso was created expressly for her.
In recognition of her choreography for SF Ballet and Oakland Ballet, Erickson has received numerous awards and fellowships, including a California Arts Council Fellowship, six National Endowment for the Arts choreographer fellowships, and a National Dance Residency Program Grant.
Erickson was appointed ballet master in January 1992. She is responsible for staging and rehearsing multiple ballets in SF Ballet’s repertory, including works by Val Caniparoli, Lew Christensen, Mark Morris, Alexei Ratmansky, Jerome Robbins, and Helgi Tomasson.
Anita Paciotti, a native of Oakland, California, majored in drama at UC Berkeley. She studied at San Francisco Ballet School and joined the Company in 1968, performing leading roles in works by Sir Frederick Ashton and Lew Christensen. In addition, she performed soloist roles in several George Balanchine ballets, including Serenade, Stars and Stripes, Symphony in C, and the Choleric variation in Balanchine’s The Four Temperaments.
Paciotti was appointed principal character dancer in 1987 and created the role of Carabosse in Tomasson’s The Sleeping Beauty. In 1993, she created the role of Nurse in Tomasson’s production of Romeo & Juliet. That year also marked the 30th anniversary of Paciotti’s participation in San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker, and 2018 was Paciotti’s 50th year with San Francisco Ballet.
Paciotti was appointed rehearsal assistant in 1982 and was promoted to ballet master in 1991. As ballet master, she is responsible for staging and rehearsing ballets by multiple choreographers, including Cathy Marston, Yuri Possokhov, Jerome Robbins, Helgi Tomasson, and Christopher Wheeldon.
Header images: (left) Anita Paciotti in Sir Frederick Ashton’s La Fille Mal Gardée, circa 1978; (right) Betsy Erickson as the Sugar Plum Fairy and Gary Wahl as her Cavalier in a performance of Lew Christensen’s Nutcracker, 1978.