California Ballet in the 1990’s

Well, here we are on the last day of the extension to our Season 43 Fundraiser. We don’t have an official tally as of yet, because the donations keep trickling in via the mail! Your support and interest has been amazing through all of this, and we cannot thank you enough.


As most of you know, California Ballet Company will be performing their Chopin Tribute next Saturday, May 1, 2010, as part of San Diego’s Chopin Bicentennial Celebration! We would love to see all of you there.

To that end, we are offering a 20% discount on tickets to all of our blog readers. This discount is only available when you order tickets through the California Ballet Ticketing Office over the phone. Mention the code “Concerto Blog” when you call to order your tickets.

Be sure to mention the code when you call the California Ballet Ticketing Office, or your discount will not be applied!

If you would like more information on our Chopin Tribute, check out the press release in our pages section to the right!

Now, on to California Ballet in the 1990’s!


In 1990, Director Maxine Mahon attended the Ballet School in Tbilisi, Georgia for a two-week intensive course studying the Vaganova Method. (For those of you that don’t know, the Vaganova Method is a Russian method of teaching ballet that was developed in the early part of the 20th century, in post-revolution Russia, by Agrippina Vaganova.) Ms. Mahon’s trip to Georgia coincided with CBC dancer Calvin Kitten’s graduation from a nine month exchange program with the company.


Later that year, California Ballet branched out into something different. For the October Fundraiser the company performed a Murder Mystery set to their Dracula! Not a usual performance for a ballet company, and it was a hit!

The Nutcracker saw some changes at the end of 1990 as the company moved its East County performances from the East County Performing Arts Center to the Poway Center for the Performing Arts! The new venue was beautifully amazing, and our Nutcracker was well received by the Poway audiences.


In 1991, California Ballet continued acting in their role as ballet ambassador by joining the Tokyo Festival Ballet at the San Diego Civic Theatre, performing Ambiguous Obsession. Also featured on the program was CBC dancer Calvin Kitten, having recently returned from his nine-month stay in Tbilisi, Georgia. Calvin performed The Contender, which was commissioned by CBC to be choreographed by Jean Isaacs.



Later that year, Principal Dancer Sylvia Poolos was one of three Americans accepted to compete in the International Ballet Competition in Helsinki, Finland! She premiered a new piece by Betzi Roe, titled Dos, and was partnered by the acclaimed Soviet Dancer Vladimir Dzhuluhadze.

1991 also brought mixed emotions when California Ballet Company Dancer Calvin Kitten left the company to join the Joffrey Ballet. “We were very excited that talented young dancer Calvin Kitten was selected to join the Joffrey Ballet” commented Director Maxine Mahon, “but we missed his presence in the company.”

The 25th Anniversary Season spanned 1992 and 1993, and was studded with beautiful performances! The season opened with a Giselle under the stars. Newly appointed to Ballerina, Sylvia Poolos made her debut in the title role to critical acclaim! “For a young San Diego dancer taking on one of the greatest, most coveted challenges in the ballet repertory, Poolos did herself and her mentors proud.” Anne Marie Welsh – San Diego Union Tribune September 21, 1992.

A newly refurbished Nutcracker was unveiled for the 25th Anniversary season. New Costume pieces were revealed, and scenery and props were restored to their original luster!


The crowning performance for California Ballet’s Silver Anniversary was a special Gala performance at the San Diego Civic Theatre. Director Maxine Mahon premiered her Tribute. Excerpts from California Ballet favorites were performed, such as pieces from Romeo and Juliet, A Midsummer Night’s Dream, and Coppelia. The evening culminated in the California Ballet Company premiere of Petrushka with sets and scenery from Eugene Ballet and choreography by Toni Pimble. The night ended as all dancers who had ever performed with California Ballet Company were invited to come out onstage with the cast of the entire show.

In 1994 Ukranian born Vadim Solomaha joined the California Ballet Company as our newest principal dancer.  His stay was dynamic, albeit unfortunately short as he left the company in April of 1995 to join the San Francisco Ballet.

While saying goodbye to Vadim was sad, the company was excited to welcome a new principal dancer: Max Tchernychev, formerly of the Bolshoi Ballet!


We also had the pleasure to premiere Charles Bennet’s Alice in Wonderland, which would become the first in California Ballet’s Family Series. The ballet, performed at the East County Performing Arts Center, was also the first in the company’s new multi-media ballets, utilizing projectors and slides as well as voiceover narrations to flesh out the story.

The Nutcracker also celebrated its 25th consecutive year in 1995!

In 1996, California Ballet welcomed internationally renowned Thor Sutowski and Sonia Arova to its family as Associate Director and Artistic Advisor, respectively. Former Associate Director Charles Bennet was appointed to Principal Choreographer.


The newly appointed Principal Choreographer set his all new full-length Snow White on the company. It became the second installation in the Family Series, and continued with the multi-media experience as much of the scenery was projected on a scrim that stood in front of the dancers!


1997 saw the premiere of a new full-length Swan Lake for the Company! Choreographed by Sonia Arova and Thor Sutowski, the ballet was received with critical acclaim!

Later that year, California Ballet Company took to the road with the first in a series of Fall tours of The Nutcracker! The company made its way to Wyoming, Colorado, and Arizona before returning home for their tradition performances at the Civic Theatre and the Poway Center for the Performing Arts.

We had to say goodbye to Sylvia Poolos and Max Tchernychev in 1998 as our two Principal dancers left to join the St. Louis Ballet. We were sad to see them go, but excited at their newest life opportunities!

The year continued on as we mourned the passing of Robert Mahon, a founder of the California Ballet Company. Together with his former wife, Maxine Mahon, they started our company to fill an artistic void in San Diego, and lived to watch their creation prosper and thrive!


On a happier and more exciting note, fourteen of California Ballet’s dancers appeared in the film Being John Malkovich as Director Maxine Mahon was asked to set a scene from Swan Lake Act II  for the Spike Jones movie!



In 1999, Ballerina Denise Dabrowski was presented with the award for best female ballet dancer at the first Annual Tommy Awards!


1999 also welcomed a new principal dancer, native Albanian Artan Kerleshi! California Ballet’s international presence continued to thrive as evidenced by the international presence within the company itself.

The millennium was finished with a Nutcracker tour of the Rockies and a final set of performances at home in the Civic Theatre.

The 1990’s were full of wonderful performances and company debuts! We saw many family members come and go onto new experiences and opportunities. And we found ourselves staring at new opportunities for a new millennium!

Be sure to come back for a look at what the 2000’s held for the California Ballet Company!


–The California Ballet Company Staff


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