Top dancers perform at City Ballet of San Diego’s spring fundraiser in Rancho Santa Fe


By Diane Y. Welch

Manicured grounds, a majestic fountain, and an architectural marvel of an estate-home provided a romantic European-style venue on Sunday, June 8, for City Ballet of San Diego’s annual spring fundraiser.

The estate home and grounds of Tommie and Dr. Jack Wasserman in Rancho Santa Fe’s “The Meadows” struck just the right sophisticated note for the 131 guests who attended the afternoon’s event.

The high point came when City Ballet’s principal dancers performed on a portable dance floor laid on the Wassermans’ tennis court. Ariana Samuelsson, Geoff Gonzalez, Erica Alvarado and Stephano Candreva performed selections of Elizabeth Rowe Wistrich’s original choreography set to the music of Mozart’s “Requiem.” In addition, they performed the famous pas de deux from Don Quixote, “which our company will perform – with full orchestra – in its entirety next season at the Spreckels Theater,” said Wistrich.

Twenty-plus dancers, who comprise City Ballet’s talent, work intensely through a 26- week season. This year marks the company’s 21st season. It performs four major productions – with 20 programs – annually at Spreckels Theatre. Rehearsals take place at the City Ballet School located at 941 Garnet Avenue in Pacific Beach; it provides a full classical ballet curriculum for children, adults and pre-professionals. In addition, the dancers perform and teach throughout the year in city schools in the San Diego area.

The company – under the dual artistic direction of Elizabeth and Steven Wistrich, former Boston Ballet and Stuttgart Ballet dancers – is famed as the largest presenter in Southern California of the works of master choreographer and founder of the New York City Ballet George Balanchine, a rare privilege granted by the George Balanchine Trust and Foundation. “[They] decide whether your company will be granted permission to dance his ballets. You have to demonstrate that your company is performing at a high enough quality and level of excellence in dancing,” said Steven Wistrich. “It is an honor that City Ballet has earned their respect.”

Proceeds from the spring fundraiser benefit City Ballet’s education programs, including: “Discover a Dancer” which provides free year-round ballet classes and dancewear for at-risk children; “Ballet Goes to School” which provides special performances during school hours for San Diego’s school children; and the “Summer Intensive,” which provides career-track students the opportunity to study with international ballet stars culminating with a free public performance at the Spreckels Theatre.

The event showcased the sale of designer clothing and accessories, a silent auction, and an opportunity drawing featuring Seaport Village Shops, The Marriott Marquis, the San Diego Symphony Summer POPS and the Kona Kai San Diego Resort and Marina. The event raised just over $30,000, “which is the most ever for our spring fundraiser,” said Lauren Scott, special events coordinator and fundraiser chair.

The funds raised at the spring event meant that City Ballet could afford to offer scholarships for its Summer Intensive program, July 28 though Aug. 15, with famed dancers Paloma Herrera, Maria Kowroski and Jonathan Stafford as this year’s guest artists, along with other scholarships.

City Ballet budgets $200,000 annually for its outreach programs that benefit over 20,000 local children. “The success of this fundraiser is critical in order to help us reach our goals,” Wistrich stressed.

John Nettles, conductor for the City Ballet Orchestra, with his string quartet, provided the afternoon’s live musical backdrop with a medley of classical pieces with some Beatles sprinkled in. Wild Thyme catered with gourmet food and wines, and Michele Coulon Dessertier of La Jolla provided desserts.

“All in all, a lovely way to spend an afternoon in Rancho Santa Fe,” said Elizabeth Wistrich. To find out more about City Ballet of San Diego, its educational programs and upcoming performances, visit