Freemantle and Zhao Promoted to Principal Dancer at San Francisco Ballet


San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson has promoted Soloists Benjamin Freemantle and WanTing Zhao to principal dancer. Both dancers are widely regarded as well-deserving of the rank of principal.

Benjamin Freemantle and WanTing Zhao. Photo © Erik Tomasson
Benjamin Freemantle and WanTing Zhao. Photo © Erik Tomasson

A native of British Columbia, Benjamin Freemantle trained at Caulfield School of Dance and San Francisco Ballet School. He was named an apprentice of San Francisco Ballet in 2014 and became a member of the corps de ballet in 2015. In 2018 he was promoted to soloist.
Freemantle's role creations include a featured principal role in McIntyre's Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem, a featured couples role in Rhoden's LET'S BEGIN AT THE END, and pas de deux and ensemble roles in Wheeldon's Bound To. In Millepied's The Chairman Dances-Quartet for Two, he created a corps de ballet role in the 1st section and danced a principal role in the 2nd section. He has danced featured or principal roles in Caniparoli's Ibsen's House ("Ghosts"); Cranko's Onegin (Lensky); Robbins' Fancy Free (pas de deux Sailor) and In the Night (1st pas de deux); Thatcher's Manifesto (principal); Tomasson's Haffner Symphony (soloist), Nutcracker (King of the Mice, Spanish, Arabian, Chinese, and Russian), The Sleeping Beauty (Suitors and Pas de Six/Cavaliers), and Swan Lake (Aristocrats, Spanish, and Russian); and Wheeldon's Cinderella (Fates).

Freemantle's repertory includes Balanchine's Coppélia, Diamonds, Prodigal Son, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and Theme and Variations; Bubeníček's Fragile Vessels; Caniparoli's Lambarena; Forsythe's Pas/Parts 2016; Morris' Drink to Me Only With Thine Eyes; Peck's In the Countenance of Kings and Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes; Possokhov's Fusion, Magrittomania, Optimistic Tragedy, and Swimmer; Pita's Salome; Ratmansky's Shostakovich Trilogy (Symphony #9); Robbins' Glass Pieces and Opus 19/The Dreamer; Scarlett's Frankenstein; Thatcher's Ghost in the Machine; Tomasson's Concerto Grosso, Giselle, Romeo & Juliet, The Fifth Season, On a Theme of Paganini, Prism, and Trio; Tomasson/Possokhov's Don Quixote; and Wheeldon's Rush.

He also performed in the 2015 film of Helgi Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet in the inaugural season of Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance.

WanTing Zhao was born in Anshan, China and trained at Beijing Dance Academy, Rock School for Dance Education, and San Francisco Ballet School. She joined the corps de ballet in 2011 and was promoted to soloist in 2016.

She has danced principal or featured roles in Tomasson's Giselle, Nutcracker (Queen of the Snow, Spanish, Arabian, French, and Grand Pas de Deux Ballerina), Romeo & Juliet (Rosaline), The Sleeping Beauty (Lilac Fairy, Fairy of Darkness, Fairy of Tenderness, White Cat); Swan Lake (Aristocrats, Swan Maidens), and Prism; Balanchine's Coppélia (Prayer), Diamonds, The Four Temperaments (3rd Theme), Prodigal Son (Siren), Rubies, and Serenade (Angel); Lifar's Suite en Blanc (Cigarette, pas de deux, and pas de trois); Makarova's (after Petipa) "The Kingdom of the Shades" from La Bayadère, Act II (Solo Shade); van Manen's Variations for Two Couples; Nureyev's Raymonda-Act III (1st solo); Pita's Salome (Salome); Possokhov's Swimmer (Aquarium); Robbins' The Cage (Novice); Scarlett's Fearful Symmetries (principal); Thatcher's Frayed; and Wheeldon's Cinderella (Spirit of Winter/Fluidity and Balinese Princess). She created roles in Millepied's The Chairman Dances-Quartet for Two and Rhoden's Let's Begin at the End (corps couples).

Zhao's repertory includes Balanchine's Divertimento No. 15, Scotch Symphony, and Symphony in C; Cranko's Onegin; Fokine's Petrouchka; Liang's Symphonic Dances; McGregor's Borderlands; Page's Guide to Strange Places; Robbins' Glass Pieces; Tomasson's Criss-Cross and Trio; Tomasson/Possokhov's Don Quixote (Driads); and Wheeldon's Continuum.
She danced The Nutcracker at A&A Ballet in Chicago in 2017 and Rosaline in the 2015 film of Tomasson's Romeo & Juliet (Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance). She also performed with Carlo Di Lanno at The International Competition for the Erik Bruhn Prize in Toronto, and won the silver medal at the 2010 Youth America Grand Prix.

The promotions of both dancers will become effective on May 13, 2019.