San Francisco Ballet and the San Francisco Ballet School have recently received some exciting news. Dana Genshaft – a former soloist with the Company, and now a faculty member of the Ballet School – has been honored with a Princess Grace Award in Choreography. Presented annually by the Princess Grace Foundation USA, the Award will provide Dana with financial assistance and ongoing support as she pursues her career in choreography.
Princess Grace of Monaco is remembered for her talent, beauty, elegance and her compassion. Among her achievements was the establishment of a Foundation to help those with special needs, and to bring international recognition to two high profile fundraising events in the Principality of Monaco – the Bal de la Croix Rouge and the Bal de la Rose.
There was, however, another side to Princess Grace’s philanthropy. With her enduring love of the arts, the Princess harbored a desire to help emerging artists in the world of theatre, dance and film to pursue their dreams, so – after her death in 1982 – Prince Rainier founded the Princess Grace Foundation USA, to provide grants in the form of scholarships, apprenticeships and fellowships, to enable these artists to develop their talents. Among dancers who have been recognized are San Francisco Ballet Principal Joseph Walsh, Robert Battle – Artistic Director of the Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater – American Ballet Theatre’s Gillian Murphy and Isabella Boylston, and New York City Ballet’s Tiler Peck, as well as choreographers and MacArthur “Genius” grant winners, Kyle Abraham and Michelle Dorrance.
Dana Genshaft was born in Moscow, and trained at the Kirov Academy of Ballet, the School of American Ballet and the Paris Opéra Ballet School. In 2000, she became an apprentice with San Francisco Ballet, joined the Company as a member of the corps de ballet the following year, and in 2008 was promoted to the rank of soloist. She has performed lead roles in Ashton’s Monotones I; Elo’s Double Evil; McGregor’s Eden/Eden; Morris’ Pacific, Maelstrom, and A Garden; Tomasson’s 7 for Eight; Welch’s Naked; and Wheeldon’s Carousel (A Dance) and Within the Golden Hour. She had a singing role as Rosalia in Robbins’ West Side Story Suite, and created roles in Caniparoli’s Ibsen’s House and Morris’ Joyride.
Following her retirement from the Company in 2015, Dana Genshaft joined the faculty of the San Francisco Ballet School, where she has since taught contemporary repertory, conditioning, and choreography. Included in her choreographic assignments were those for for the American Ballet Theatre Studio Company and James Sofranko’s SFDanceworks.
Nearly 10 years ago, the Princess Grace Foundation USA commissioned celebrated artist Alex Soldier to create a trophy to be presented to recipients of the Princess Grace Award. Using mainly platinum-plated silver, with black obsidian and Swarovski crystal accents, Soldier created a beautiful objet d’art representing the three disciplines that were closest to the Princess’s heart – theatre, dance and film. Representing an elegant depiction of dance in its overall design, the award also features the American flag, the crown of the Princess Grace Foundation USA, a strip of film which falls into a cascade of stars, and at its centre are the masks which are universally symbolic of the theatre.
It is fair to wonder how these award-winners are selected, and Toby E Boshak, Executive Director of PGF-USA, provides the answer. “Princess Grace Award winners,” he says, “are some of the nation’s most talented artists. Each person is nominated by a non-profit company’s artistic director or school’s department chair, and since each organization may only nominate one individual, we are seeing the top creative talents in each of the three categories we fund: theater, dance, and film. From this already impressive list, our panelists choose 5 or 6 individuals who embody artistic excellence and a commitment to their craft.”
Winners of the Princess Grace Award who go on to distinguish themselves in their chosen artistic discipline are also eligible to receive the Foundation’s Princess Grace Statue Award, and this year two Statue Awards will be presented, to Sam Gold – Tony Award-winning director of Fun Home – and Kyle Abraham – Bessie Award-winner and founder of the dance company Abraham.In.Motion.
The awards ceremony takes place, in the presence of Her Serene Highness, the Princess of Monaco, at Cipriani 25 Broadway, New York City, on October 16, 2018.
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