March 6, 2020 was not an ordinary opening night at San Francisco Ballet. Some patrons inside the War Memorial Opera House wore hospital masks; others counseled fellow audience members to wash their hands a full 20 seconds in the bathroom at intermission. Onstage, the performers in Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream”—not staged at SFB in 34 years—danced as though this were their last night before lockdown, and in the velvet seats, the audience applauded as though we would never see these dancers again. We headed home with our memories of an exquisite performance. And as we slept, the order came: the threat of COVID-19 had shut down the theater. The run was over.
Sasha De Sola and San Francisco Ballet in “A Midsummer Night's Dream” by George Balanchine. Photograph by Erik Tomasson