New View: Sean Bennett

By Dancers' Group

Sean Bennett, photo by Chris Hardy

Tell us about your artistic practice and/or background. I’m a corps de ballet dancer with SF Ballet and I began studying ballet at the age of eight here, through the SF Ballet School’s Dance in Schools & Communities (DISC) program. DISC is a free interactive movement program that runs in 38 schools in the SF Unified School District and includes a scholarship program for continued study at SF Ballet School. I was lucky enough to be chosen for DISC and then went on to study at the School until I was accepted into SF Ballet.

What was your entry into dancing?
DISC was in my elementary school (Clarendon) and I was selected to receive a scholarship through the program. After the year-long DISC program the School evaluates whether or not you will be accepted into their main program. I found out they were interested in keeping me, through a letter they sent to my parents. It turned out that they wanted me to skip a level so when I accepted, I went straight into level 2 of the School. The longer I studied at the School, the more interested I became in dance. By the time I reached the higher levels, I was learning actual repertory roles instead of just taking class and that’s when I really got interested in ballet seriously. I was also very influenced by some great teachers I had that made me want to stick with it even more.

What was it like to be part of the San Francisco Ballet School Trainee Program?
The Trainee Program is the step before becoming professional dancer and you perform much more than you would when you’re in school. So it gets you ready to join a professional ballet company and you first-hand experience in working with incredible professional dancers (SF Ballet). It was great! As a Trainee, you do a lot of roles where you’re standing on stage as part of full-length productions, but at the same time, you are learning so much just by watching the Company members dance. I also learned some of the Company roles and rehearsed them with SF Ballet which really gave me a feel for being part of a professional ballet company. As a Trainee, it was also cool to have Corps de Ballet Member Myles Thatcher come teach us one of his works—I really felt like a Company member, having a work taught to us by a young choreographer—it was a great experience.

Any favorite experiences while you were in the program?
One of my favorite times at the School was being in the Men’s intermediate level. The class was really small but the guest teacher pushed us, we were learning real ballet roles and it was the rst time I thought seriously about being a professional dancer.

What were you doing before joining SF Ballet?
Before doing ballet, I took karate!

What is the most rewarding part of your work?
A couple of things: performing a ballet that I personally really like and the feedback from the audience on our performances (also, if my parents say they liked me in it!). I just had that experience performing Von Rothbart in Swan Lake as part of Program 3. It’s a principal part so you get to work with Company principal dancers and it’s very visible so the feedback you get isn’t for the group or the whole corps, it’s just for you. I got to grow a lot taking on that role—and I got positive feedback for my acting which was nice because usually, everyone is just really focused on the dancing.

What most excites you about living in the Bay Area?
How beautiful the city is, and everything surrounding it. Also, because I’m from here, it’s nice to live in a city where I can support my hometown basketball team, the Warriors.

What’s your neighborhood? Where do you spend your time?
I live in lower Pacific Heights, next to Lafayette Park and I go to the Richmond District a lot because I’m from there and I like the food a lot.

Sean Bennett (3rd from left) in Robbins' Glass Pieces
Sean Bennett (3rd from left) in Robbins’ Glass Pieces

What event(s) will we find you at this spring?
I’ll be busy dancing at the Opera House since the spring is during our season.

First dance/performance memory?
In the DISC Program, our end-of-program performance one year—I got a huge stomachache but my whole family was there so I felt like I had to go ahead with the performance. So I drank a Sprite and went on with the show. Afterward, the teacher even mentioned the incident to all the parents.

Dance idol?
Michael Jackson.

Shortlist of inspiring people, books, moments, classes, etc.?
I find these activities inspiring:

  • Beach activities
  • Basketball
  • Hiking
  • Travel

If money is no object, where is the next place you might travel?
Senegal. I had a teacher in high school from Senegal who takes groups of students to his native country every year to experience the culture and help people out by building houses. I’ve always been interested in helping people and since I never had the chance when I was in the School (since I was always in ballet class), I’d still like to go back and do this.

What’s heaven to you?
Being on the beach in Hawaii.

What’s hell to you?
Being locked in a room all day, wishing I could be outside.

What’s a future goal or dream that you have?
I would really like to travel around the world and experience different cultures.

What advice have you been given that you still hold on to today?
One of my teachers told me that focus is one of my strongest attributes and so I always call on it when things get tough.

What’s the question you wish we asked, and the answer?
What’s my favorite dog breed? Siberian Husky.

A native of San Francisco, Sean trained at American Ballet Theatre’s Jacqueline Kennedy Onassis School and at San Francisco Ballet School. He was named an apprentice in 2011 and a Company member in 2012. Bennett has danced featured roles in Tomasson’s Nutcracker (Russian, Arabian, Spanish, King of the Mice), Caprice (soloist), and Romeo & Juliet (Paris); Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote (Toreadors); Page’s Guide to Strange Places (soloist couple); and Possokhov’s RAkU (Warriors). His repertory includes Tomasson’s Giselle, Criss-Cross, and Trio; Balanchine’s Brahms-Schoenberg Quartet (1st and 4th movements), Scotch Symphony, The Four Temperaments, and Theme and Variations (excerpts); Cranko’s Onegin; Caniparoli’s Lambarena; Liang’s Symphonic Dances; Lifar’s Suite en Blanc; Morris’ Beaux and Maelstrom; Nureyev’s Raymonda—Act III (Hungarian); Possokhov’s Firebird, The Rite of Spring, and Swimmer; Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy (Symphony #9 and Piano Concerto #1); Robbins’ Glass Pieces; Scarlett’s Hummingbird; and Wheeldon’s Cinderella (Winter, Courtiers, Tree Gnomes) and Ghosts. Bennett danced in the 2015 film of Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet (Capulet Men) as part of the inaugural season of Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance.