The Presidio Performing Arts Foundation was founded in 1998 by Judy G. Bretschneider, Robert C. Leefeldt, Nancy Johnson, and Jeanne Shimmon.
Led by Judy G. Bretschneider’s vision of providing quality arts education opportunities to underserved Bay Area youths, PPAF began as an after-school arts enrichment program, in partnership with the San Francisco Unified School District. PPAF soon developed a reputation, through a multitude of public performances, as SF’s “youngest cultural ambassadors”.
In 2005, led by Artistic Director, Sherene Melania, PPAF launched the Presidio Dance Theatre (PDT), the foundation's premiere performance company and school, with a mission to support global humanitarian organizations.
The foundation’s two main initiatives now include Presidio Dance Theatre and DANCEOUT!
Our outreach program, DANCEOUT!, provides opportunities for sustained engagement in the arts, while advancing racial equity and supporting youth development. In partnership with SFUSD and the YMCA, 280,000+ students have benefitted from our programming, including our annual Children’s Day at the SF War Memorial Opera House, a multicultural dance presentation highlighting the diversity and inclusive spirit of California. 99% of our students pursue a college degree and 85% of DANCEOUT! students are the first in their families to attend university, the majority receiving scholarships for dance.
As a female led organization, Presidio Dance Theatre’s New Works Series focuses on women’s empowerment and putting women’s stories back into history, while examining gender roles through the ages. Our ethno-classical narrative ballets have earned widespread recognition and awards. PDT has represented the United States on thirteen international tours, four of which were Sister City Exchanges on behalf of San Francisco.
PPAF would not have existed without Judy G. Bretschneider's pioneering vision. Please click below to learn more about her and ways to support the Judy G. Bretschneider Legacy Fund.
PDT sees dance as the most fundamental vehicle for promoting compassion, understanding, and equity. We have been commissioned to choreograph and perform for a panoply of humanitarian organizations, including the United Nations, International Red Cross, UNESCO, Assyrian Aid Society, UCSF’s Brain Cancer Research Center, A Chance in Life and Make- A-Wish Foundation.
Our greatest impact is to facilitate, through the language of dance, the development of empathy, tolerance, and appreciation for the myriad of international communities residing in the Bay Area and beyond. DANCEOUT! utilizes dance as a form of youth development, providing opportunities for sustained engagement in the arts, advancing racial equity, while building social capital. We provide scholarships to underserved students, and offer free public performances, lectures, and community classes for SF Bay Area residents and visitors. Working with our community partners, we offer internships for high school and university students.
PDT is widely recognized for its signature style of Ethno-Classical Ballet. Our adult company develops and presents original productions for the stage. Our repertoire of full- length original productions includes Beyond the Land of Sweets™ ; The Little Lantern® Ballet; and Dancing Across Cultures™. We also present commissioned new work in collaboration with various national and international organizations. Company artists represent over 12 different nationalities; each individual shares his or her culture, adding to our collective wisdom. Our New Works Series focuses on women’s empowerment, putting women’s stories back into history and examining gender roles throughout the ages.
We offer year-round classes, master classes, and summer camps for youth who want to explore dance and individual self-expression in a nurturing environment. PDT provides extensive performance opportunities grounded in cultural education and connection. Our main objective is to provide high-quality training with an emphasis on cultural diversity, training the next generation of global citizens. Our students gain training, social support, and cultural literacy, and receive rigorous, high-level dance training in a body-positive, gender and sexuality inclusive context.
Sherene Melania, along with PDT first joined UNESCO's International Dance Council (Conseil International de la Danse-CID) in 2006. This provided opportunities for international tours and speaking engagements. In 2019, Melania was appointed as Founding President of UNESCO CID West, representing the Western Region of the United States to UNESCO. CID is headquartered at UNESCO, in Paris, France and currently includes 20,000 global members, representing 170 countries.
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