Parties: Dancing To Diversity

by Catherine Bigelow

Presidio Dance Theatre

Attendees: 120
Cause: Proceeds benefit educational performances, cultural diplomacy and a new DanceOut! program at Booker T. Washington Community Service Center.

Spring finally sprang amid verdant flora surrounding Sessions Restaurant in the Presidio on June 6, where a seated lunch and world dance and ethno-classical ballet performances by students and adult company members dazzled supporters.

Led by co-chairs Sonya Molodetskaya and Farah Makras (also vice president of the Booker T. Washington board) — along with Presidio Dance Theatre board director Shauna Marshall — the spirited, sunny afternoon was also one of the first inperson events of 2021.

“In the spirit of spring, a time of rebirth and renewal, I find myself hopeful,” toasted Executive and Artistic Director Sherene Melania. “Perhaps Lady Bird Johnson said it best: ‘Where flowers bloom, so does hope.’”

The festive fete — which included Lt. Governor Eleni Kounalakis, who hosted Presidio Dance Theatre in Hungary when she served there as the U.S. ambassador — also honored former Mayor Willie Brown, resplendent in a raspberry-pink linen suit, a man who appreciates the boogie a bit more than ballet.

However, Brown was instrumental in transforming the Presidio Performing Arts Foundation, established in 1998 by Melania’s late mother, Judy Bretschneider, into its current incarnation as an academy providing after-school classes — and scholarships — now run by her daughter, a former Kirov Academy dancer who went on to become a teacher and social justice advocate. Over the years, the organization — which became Presidio Dance Theatre in 2005 — has served more than 120,000 students.

“When Judy reached out to me, I realized her artistic vision for this nonprofit provided eloquent opportunities for students to express their skills and abilities,” enthused Brown. “Here, and around the world, Presidio Dance Theatre inspires cultural change, global dialogue and connection through dance.”

In 2022, Presidio Dance Theatre presents Melania’s new ballet, The Legend of Shamiram, based on an Assyrian warrior queen.

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