MESSAGE FROM THE ARTISTIC DIRECTOR

Sherene Melania

My fascination with tutus and tiaras began at age two. By age three, I was subjecting my younger brother to my "choreographic" endeavors. At age eight I called San Francisco Ballet to arrange my audition, unbeknownst to my parents. So my formal training began!

I continued studying with SFB and then went on to the Kirov Academy in Washington, D.C. to complete my formal ballet training. After performing principal youth roles with both companies, I was sure that I was destined for a life onstage. Following a two-year apprenticeship with the Mariinsky Theatre, while I was concurrently a student at the St. Petersburg State Conservatory in St. Petersburg, Russia, I had an experience that brought an unexpected sharp turn to my career path: I saw a little girl, actually barefoot in snow, in a tattered sweater. She lived at Home Number 21, a dilapidated building, one of the many orphanages in St. Petersburg. Suddenly my complaints about the harsh Russian winter seemed absurd and spoiled. I couldn't get her out of my mind. When I walked by the building on the way to my daily studies at the Conservatory I wondered how many had passed by this building, indifferent to this child. I did not want to be just another passerby. So I decided to organize a benefit concert.

I enlisted my classmates, artists of the Mariinsky Theatre and a cast of 16 international artists. We couldn't speak the same languages, but we were united, nonetheless. The event we held was unprecedented, a great success; all the proceeds went to the orphanage. That year, every child received a coat, gloves and warm shoes. Though a small step, it had a big impact on me. I realized that I could use dance as a tool to tangibly help others.

Since then I've combined continued performing with humanitarian work through the arts. I want to mentor the next generation to do the same. My goals extend beyond nurturing a new generation of culturally sensitive artists and arts enthusiasts. I hope to inspire young students to dig deeper within themselves as people – as humans and as citizens on the planet. It takes courage to explore the world's endless possibilities, to have a sense of responsibility and compassion for others. But the power of dance can inspire that. And that's my life's work.