Yuan Yuan Tan, Principal Dancer since 1997 of the San Francisco Ballet, is the first dancer to join the Committee of 100. Time has described the Shanghai-born ballerina as “the most critically acclaimed dancer to emerge from China,” and she remains the only native Chinese principal dancer in an international dance company. Tan was first spotted by San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson in a 1992 international dance competition in Paris and joined the company as a soloist at age 18, speaking no English, in 1995. Since that time, Tan has contributed to making the San Francisco Ballet’s last two decades the most celebrated of its more than 75-year history as the nation’s oldest professional ballet company.
On February 12, many Bay Area C-100 members will be in the audience for Tan’s performance of Giselle, one of her favorite and most-praised roles. Another of Tan’s favorites and her most challenging role is The Little Mermaid, performed for the first time in the U.S. last year and being presented again this spring. Currently, Tan is winning standing ovations in the world premiere of Yuri Possokhov’s Raku about a love-crazed monk who burns Kyoto’s Golden Pavilion, dancing in a role created for her.
Tan has performed in China many times, where she is a celebrity, and in 2009 she helped arrange for the San Francisco Ballet to make its first tour of China. Tan told Dance Magazine why exposure to American dance was important for China: “My country should see the diversity of the repertory. I hope I can open the door, so that the Chinese will appreciate the speed of Balanchine’s movement and his difficult music. I hope they will learn that ballet is about more than just telling a story.”
In spite of her extraordinarily demanding career, Tan hopes to share her successful experience in cultural exchange with the Committee of 100.