The San Francisco Ballet was founded in 1933 by Gaetano Merola and was the first professional ballet company in the United States. At first, the company was created to perform in operas and was a part of the San Francisco Opera. In 1939 William Christensen choreographed the companies first full-length production of Coppélia. In 1940 he staged the first American full-length production of Swan Lake.
In 1942 the ballet company separated itself from the opera. Mr. Christensen became the artistic director and his brother Harold was appointed the director of the school. The School, like the ballet company was created for the San Francisco Opera. It also separated in 1942 and recently celebrated its 75th birthday. The ballet school has students from all around the world and trains approximately 350 annually. In addition to joining the San Francisco Ballet, graduates have gone on to join other ballet companies throughout the world.
The San Francisco Ballet is credited for staging the first complete production of the Nutcracker in the United States. It was performed on December 24, 1944. This was also the beginning of the tradition of performing the Nutcracker during the Christmas season.
The company is currently based in the War Memorial Opera House in San Francisco. It has been the company’s home since 1972.