Dana Genshaft was a beloved dancer in the San Francisco Ballet for 15 years, rising to the rank of soloist. Some of her SFB career highlights include performing lead roles in Frederick Ashton's Monotones I and Wayne McGregor's Eden/Eden and originating roles in Val Caniparoli's Ibsen's House and Mark Morris' Joyride, as well as working with Christopher Wheeldon and William Forsythe.
Catching up with Genshaft to celebrate the recent announcement of her receiving the prestigious Princess Grace Award, she is full of positive energy and passion about her current projects: performing with SFDanceworks, choreographing and co-directing her first dance film, teaching at the San Francisco Ballet School and choreographing a new work for The Washington Ballet. Plus, she is enjoying time with her husband, her teenage daughter and life in the San Francisco Bay Area.
Now in her third year on staff at the San Francisco Ballet School, she says: "I am happy to step into different shoes, mentor young people and continue to learn to become a teacher." She finds the school a constant source of inspiration for her work as a teaching artist, plus she simply describes the work as "super-fun."
Genshaft teaching during a San Francisco Ballet School Summer Session. Photo by Chris Hardy, courtesy of San Francisco Ballet
As well as ballet technique, she teaches contemporary rep for the students and has been fostering the Helgi Tomasson Choreographic Workshop initiative over the past few years, serving as the lead teacher and project coordinator. "The goal is to get kids to move and to think creatively about music, space and structure. And, to encourage all to try and make dances. Sometimes it is just a matter of confidence and opportunity," she says. Each year, three teens are awarded a special scholarship and stipend to choreograph works for students of the entire SFB upper school. "I am super-proud. I wish I had that at their age: a head start."
As a Princess Grace Award recipient, a lifetime of possibilities for funding and support have just opened up. In 2019, she heads to the nation's capital for a commission with The Washington Ballet. "This is the culmination of several years' work," she says.
As Genshaft develops her own choreographic voice, she reflects on what she hopes for future audiences of her work. She thinks of her own experiences in the theater and wants to remind the audience of something beautiful. "I want them to get lost in the feeling or mood...a feeling that is positive and hopeful."