Monday, January 29, 2018

I Love San Francisco Ballet: Dazzling New 2018 Season

After the joyful SF Ballet opening night gala (I covered it on C SOCIALFRONT last week), the new season began this week with a fabulous presentation of The Sleeping Beauty.

The 2018 season is exciting, creative, daring, fearless, and a tribute to the classical and modern history of ballet, always inventive.

The season, which runs through May, includes magnificent full-length ballets, as well as programs of two or four or more modern pieces.

I can’t wait to see Helgi’s tribute to Jerome Robbins, his ode to Bernstein, and this year’s Balanchine program. I’m impatient to watch the
Unbound season…with new, unseen, inventive and futuristic new ballets and challenges to dancers (and perhaps audiences) each evening.

Bravo to San Francisco Ballet. I look forward to watching the season unfold—and seeing this year’s new dancers making their debut. Exciting.

Sasha De Sola and Carlo Di Lanno in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)

Maria Kochetkova in Bournonville's La Sylphide. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)

Moving Through the Season

The 2018 repertory Season consists of ten programs, through May 6.

The Season will culminate with a previously announced festival entitled Unbound: A Festival of New Works, conceived and planned by SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson.

The Unbound festival will take place from April 20-May 6, 2018 and will showcase 12 new works by 12 renowned choreographers.

Sasha De Sola and Sean Orza in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)

Sasha De Sola and Carlo Di Lanno in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)

Angelo Greco in Petipa's Le Corsaire. (© Erik Tomasson)

Sasha De Sola and Angelo Greco in Petipa's Le Corsaire. (© Erik Tomasson)

Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham in Robbins' In the Night. (© Erik Tomasson)

Yuan Yuan Tan and Carlo Di Lanno in Liang's Letting Go. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet Announces Program Details for Unbound: A Festival of New Works

Unbound, an unprecedented festival of new works, celebrates San Francisco’s spirit of curiosity and experimentation.

Over 17 performances, Unbound will include 12 world premieres by 12 international artists including: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Edwaard Liang, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Cathy Marston, Trey McIntyre, Justin Peck, Arthur Pita, Dwight Rhoden, Myles Thatcher, Stanton Welch, and Christopher Wheeldon.

The festival, comprised of four programs of three works each, will make San Francisco the epicenter of the dance world this spring.

Unbound programming is as follows:

Program A opens on Friday, April 20 and will feature new works by Alonzo King (entitled The Collective Agreement), Christopher Wheeldon (entitled Bound©), and Justin Peck (entitled Hurry Up, We’re Dreaming).

Program B opens on Saturday, April 21 and features new works by Myles Thatcher, Cathy Marston (entitled Snowblind), and David Dawson (entitled Anima Animus).

Program C opens on Tuesday, April 24 and will feature new works by Stanton Welch (entitled Bespoke), Trey McIntyre (entitled Your Flesh Shall Be a Great Poem), and Annabelle Lopez Ochoa (entitled Guernica).

Program D opens Thursday, April 26 and includes new works by Edwaard Liang (entitled The Infinite Ocean), Dwight Rhoden, and Arthur Pita (entiled Björk Ballet). 

San Francisco Ballet School Students in Tomasson's Little Waltz. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes. (© Erik Tomasson)

San Francisco Ballet in Peck's Rodeo: Four Dance Episodes. (© Erik Tomasson)

Special Season Events

“Meet the Artist” interviews and “Pointes of View” Lecture Series

SF Ballet will continue to present the entertaining and informative “Meet the Artist” series at Friday evening and Sunday Matinee performances.

The 30-minute interviews with company artists, management, and guests of SF Ballet begin one hour prior to performance; all ticket holders are invited to attend free of charge. In addition, SF Ballet will present “Pointes of View” lectures on Wednesdays during the season, which are free and open to the public. For more information about these and other education programs, visit

Ana Sophia Scheller and Vitor Luiz in Balanchine's Stars And Stripes. (Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Ana Sophia Scheller in Balanchine's Stars And Stripes. (Choreography by George Balanchine © The Balanchine Trust; Photo © Erik Tomasson)

Dores André and Wei Wang in Tomasson's The Sleeping Beauty. (© Erik Tomasson)

Maria Kochetkova and Ulrik Birkkjaer in Bournonville's La Sylphide. (© Erik Tomasson)

About San Francisco Ballet

San Francisco Ballet, has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933, including performing the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first 20th-century American Coppélia.

SF Ballet is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States and currently presents more than 100 performances annually, both locally and internationally.

SF Ballet shares the joy of dance with the widest possible audience—in its community and worldwide—and provides the highest caliber of dance training in its School.

Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world. 

San Francisco War Memorial Opera House — photo by Joel Puliatti.

Information and Tickets

SF Ballet programs are presented in the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House.

For information call Ticket Services at 415.865.2000 or visit Phone hours are Monday through Friday, 10am to 4pm.

Monday, January 8, 2018

Travels with The Style Saloniste: The Lowell Hotel, New York

The Lowell, in the heart of New York’s Upper East Side, was recently updated by designer Michael S. Smith. And there’s a chic new restaurant, Majorelle, and a popular new bar, Jacques. The Lowell’s location makes if a favorite of cosmopolitan travelers and transcontinental business leaders. 

This week I spoke to designer Michael S. Smith exclusively about the design of The Lowell hotel. 

Positioned perfectly and conveniently on East 63rd Street at Madison Avenue, The Lowell hotel, is considered a second home for many guests, who take up residence for weeks or even months at a time.

Dina de Luca Chartouni , the co-owner and design director of The Lowell has a vision for the hotel that is rich in both comfort and style, and she sets the residential tone. She is the quintessential New York woman, born and raised in the city and a graduate of Barnard, and dedicated to creating an environment in which guests instantly relax.

Built as a luxury apartment house in the 1920s, The Lowell is a rare small private New York hotel with just 74 rooms and suites.

The seventeen-floor hotel was recently updated and renovated by Los Angeles/New York designer Michael S. Smith who carefully built on the residential feeling with individual décor for penthouses, as well as for all suites. His approach was to curate painting and photography collections, and to arrange furniture in a practical, residential style. Antiques and one-of-a-kind vintage pieces enhance the ultra-private rooms.

Frequent guests of the hotel (some take up residence for spring and summer, others for the fall cultural season) often have special requests for ideal furniture arrangements.

Sixty percent of the hotel is dedicated to spacious suites that are ideal for family visits. Many have terraces and kitchens as well as wood-burning fireplaces that are unusual amenities among hotels in New York. Several suites have outdoor terraces from which Central Park may be viewed.

Like a film director, Chartouni has assembled a dream team including general manager Heiko Kuenstle, restaurateur Charles Masson, interior designer Michael Smith, and architect Mark Pinney. Together they made a statement that is design-driven in the guest rooms as well as in a new culinary universe anchored by a restaurant called Majorelle with a bar, Jacques, and a guests-only Club Room as well as an outdoor dining terrace.

When the recent renovation was completed, I spoke to California designer Michael S. Smith to learn more about his philosophy of design for The Lowell.

DDS: What was the feeling you wanted to create for the hotel?

Michael S. Smith:
I wanted to orchestrate an instant classic. People who know The Lowell love it. It has a loyal, very European following, with charm and a real sense of tradition – very classic. I wanted to do something that in your mind’s eye looks like it’s always been there. I was also inspired by apartments that Maison Jansen designed in New York in the 1950s and 1960s. A universal, classic, timeless and elegant look.

DDS: The color palette?

Michael S. Smith:
Natural materials – limestone, marble and stucco – dominate the color palette. The owners of The Lowell love a pale blue, green palette, which is great because that is one of my favorites as well. I used those colors to give the space a very soft, clean and fresh look. The design and palette are neoclassical, inspired by the idea of a classic New York City apartment.

DDS: Inspirations?

Michael S. Smith:
I love the classic idea of a celebratory hotel – a place for special occasions like a proposal, a birthday or a chic Saturday night dinner. I see The Lowell as a dream urban hotel, inspired by many French elements. I did not want to make it too theatrical because some guests are there often.

DDS: What are your favorite design ‘moments’ at the hotel?

Michael S. Smith:
I love the new paneled rooms – they are magical. It’s almost as if you couldn’t imagine them not being there before. They feel solid and built into the building. I also love the inlaid floors, especially the ones based on a classic Jansen design from the 1960s. The mirrors in the dining room were etched by Nancy Lorenz in her ‘Fireworks’ pattern. Intellectually your brain knows how mirrors work, but mirrors feel magical and other-worldly.

DDS: Michael, thank you. It has been a great pleasure.

Note: Diane Dorrans Saeks collaborated with the designer to create, “Michael S. Smith Elements of Style’ published by Rizzoli in 2004. The book has been a best-seller, and went into nine printings. Designers today tell me that this is a book they refer to most frequently.

Flowers of The Lowell

Guests who arrive early in the morning may be fortunate to meet Yasmin Kantakis, the artist who creates the very lavish flowers in the lobby at The Lowell. 

Yasmin has been creating beautiful seasonal floral displays at The Lowell for over twenty years. Recently she combined majestic and fragrant Casablanca lilies and tiger lilies, with peonies in a pastel palette, and guests lingered to admire the flowers and capture images.

Charles Masson does all of the flowers for Majorelle – it is his passion and he is known for his lavish arrangements. He selects the most beautiful seasonal flowers—and arranges them generously, colorfully, and with great branches and leaves and fronds to add texture and height. Glorious.

Majorelle at The Lowell

Charles Masson, after forty years of service at La Grenouille, opened Majorelle at The Lowell.

The restaurant is beloved by locals, who drop in often, sometimes more than once a day.

The entry is framed by Botticino and Carrara marble columns, and features a custom patterned gray and ivory marble floor, vaulted wood arched ceilings, and deep blue hues of silk velvet on the chairs and banquettes. 

Jacques Bar at The Lowell

The adjacent Jacques bar is an intimate space with French oak wood paneling, an antiqued mirrored ceiling, and a marble bar.

The Club Room, which features a library of art books, has French oak parquet floors, hand-painted paneling, a wood burning fireplace, dedicated bar, and handcrafted crown moldings, all by Smith.

“It’s a new era for The Lowell, one that adds to the level of luxury, comfort and elegance that defines us,” said Chartouni. “This excellence is and always will be my passion and our ultimate mission.”

Designer Michael S. Smith

Images published here courtesy of The Lowell, New York, used with express permission.


Monday, January 1, 2018

Where to Stay on The Left Bank Now: The Privately-Owned Relais Christine Is My Latest Left Bank Favorite

Newly redesigned and decorated by Paris designer Laura Gonzalez, the Relais Christine has a rare and very charming garden and private sunny courtyard.
Since 1979, the Relais Christine has been one of the Left Bank’s best-kept secrets. Newly renovated, the ultra-private hotel has the warm and welcoming atmosphere of a family home with the refinement and amenities and polished service of a top luxury hotel. It’s quiet, hidden away on a secluded one-way street, opposite a private cinema showing classic films. It has some of have the most charming and inviting rooms and suites in Paris.

The Relais Christine reopened its doors post-renovation with a meticulously designed style imbued with French romanticism. Classic Parisian styles preserve all the classic codes (old furniture, 18th-century patterns, wallpaper and fabric by iconic brands such as Pierre Frey, Hermes, Le Manach, Braquenié, ) enhanced and rejuvenated by the choice of contemporary materials such as brass and marble.

Laura Gonzalez has redesigned the ground floor reception and lounge areas with a virtuoso blend of historic character, intimate ambiance and luxurious decoration. Charming and discreet spaces wrap guests in a mantle of comfort or simply make a wonderful place to read by the fireside.

At any hour of the day and evening, guests gather and relax with a cup of tea and a pick-me-up, a glass of wine or a Champagne aperitif. 

The Relais Christine pays tribute to the site’s dramatic centuries of history—and gives them a subtle tweak. This challenge was brilliantly met by noted French decorator Laura Gonzalez.

There is a new spa under the vaults.

The effect is modern and elegant and it feels entirely French and totally Parisian.

I love the lively colors Laura selected. They are the marine blues and leaf greens you see at Versailles, and the ruby and golden tones favored since Louis XV. When I stayed there, I especially appreciated the very French style of adding bolsters on sofas, and adding padded comfort to linen or twill headboards so that reading in bed feels cozy and quiet.

Pillows are trimmed with custom-crafted brush fringe, and edged with custom-colored cording and piping. Wall lights shimmer with a wash of gold. Sofas are large and relaxed.


Each of the 48 splendidly unique rooms and suites projects a resolutely chic and intimate universe: collections, paintings, antiques, cosy velvet, warm woodwork and noble materials, Toile de Jouy print in one room, canopy beds in another, beautifully lit Carrera marble bathrooms. The welcoming rooms are infused with warmth. At the same time they are practical and highly functional. 

When Gonzalez renovated the property, she first imagined the property as a whole, obsessing over the DNA of the place and its history and style. She drew inspiration from old stones of the (no-longer-extant) 16th-century friars’ college building upon which the hotel was built. Some excavated historic architecture is viewable in the basement near the fitness center.

Decorating Details

Laura Gonzalez was given the brief to ‘make it intensely French’ and ‘update the interiors’ and ‘keep our residential look’ and ‘make it comfortable’.

Using all French fabrics and fabricators and lighting and silhouettes, Gonzalez captured precisely the right tone—with traditional French favored colors and codes and proportions and motifs.

Curtains are tied back with large-scale tassels, and all the hardware has boldness and heft. Upholstery is generous in proportion and elegant in its detailing and shape.

Within Walking Distance

Location of a Paris hotel is extremely important to me.

I like to be able to walk out the front door—and within minutes I am at a favorite café, or at the Louvre, or walking into an antique shop of a fabric showroom, or enjoying lunch with a friend, or picking up French magazines or London newspapers at the newsstand off the rue de Buci (or a book at Taschen).

Close to Relais Christine:
• Museums and other cultural sites: Musée du Louvre, Musée d’Orsay, Monnaie de Paris, Notre Dame de Paris cathedral, Saint Chapelle, Conciergerie.

 Strolls to the Luxembourg Garden, Ile Saint- Louis, Latin Quarter. The banks of the Seine and the bouquinistes are a block away.

• Shopping: boulevard Saint-Germain, rue de Rennes, rue du Four, rue Saint -Sulpice, Bon Marché.

• Art galleries.

• Mythic cafés (Café de Flore, Deux-Magots, Procope...) and Michelin-star gastronomic options. 

Services and Features

• Relais Christine has 48 unique rooms and suites. Some are 2 stories, some with terrace in the garden or in the courtyard, some for up to 4 persons, many connecting. 

• Some suites connect. Garden suites have their own terrace (potentially for sun-bathing).

• Cozy lounges in the garden. 

• In the reception is an Honor Bar, which is perfect for that evening when you bring a friend back to the hotel for a drink and to great your family. There’s a library for an impromptu private meeting.

• Guests may enjoy tea in the lounge—or coffee.

• Buffet breakfast.

• Room service 24.

 7 GUERLAIN spa with exclusive treatments, fitness, sauna and Jacuzzi .

• Concierges are Clefs d’Or.

• The hotel offers free WiFi. For anytime refreshment, a free in-room Nespresso machine and bottled water. 

 Rooms and suites are air-conditioned and equipped with a mini-bar, safe, and Bluetooth Marshall speakers. 

• Free parking and in the summer and good weather, free bicycles. 

• A car available for rental.

Relais Christine images are courtesy Relais Christine.

3 Rue Christine 
75006 Paris, France
T: +33 (0) 1 40 51 60 80