Mayor Sheng Thao, City Leaders Announce New Grant Program to Revitalize Business Along City’s Commercial Corridors

By Carolyn Evans

On Friday, Sept. 29 at 7 p.m. at Oakland Paramount Theatre, Oakland Ballet Company and Life in Motion Productions will present the Oakland premiere of “Flower,” a short film starring and produced by international ballet trailblazer Misty Copeland.

Without using dialogue, the film provides an artistic impression of the homeless, unhoused and worsening medical conditions of a community of Black and Brown people bombarded by the impacts of gentrification.

A highlight of the event will be a live performance featuring Angela Watson, a Black ballerina from the Oakland-Bay Area who is the newest member of the San Francisco Ballet Company and appears courtesy of Tamara Rojo, its new artistic director.

Watson’s invitation to perform at the premiere of “Flower” at the behest of the Oakland Ballet Company is a measure of her formidable talent and a sign of respect among professionals in ballet.

Like Misty Copeland, whose rise to become a principal dancer at American Ballet Theatre, Watson is part of the changing face of ballet as more Black ballerinas take their places in dance companies all over the country and abroad.

In 2015, Copeland ascended into the pantheon of principal dancers at the American Ballet Theatre. Since then, Black ballerinas have been blazing new trails.

Watson’s journey to becoming a ballerina began at Oakland’s Shawl-Anderson Dance Center, then Oakland Ballet Company School followed by Oakland School for the Arts where she first received formal ballet technique training at age 12 by OSA School of Dance artistic director Reginald Ray Savage and ballet master Alison Hurley (both now retired).

In 2016, Watson accepted a full scholarship offer to train with SF Ballet School, the first American classical ballet school and danced the lead role of Clara in “The Nutcracker” for the next two seasons as a pre-professional SFBS David Palmer Student Scholar.

This is when Watson, then only 14, and Copeland first crossed paths sharing experiences of the uphill climb in becoming ballerinas. Continuing her journey up the ranks of the school, Watson earned a spot in the coveted 2021 SFBS International Professional Training Program.

She advanced to apprentice the year after and in 2023 she was promoted and became the only Black ballerina to advance as a member of the main company in the corps de ballet. Watson is the only African American holding a spot in the corps and was promoted alongside five Asian ballerinas.

Black women are quietly shattering stereotypes and scaling the ranks of predominantly white ballet companies. Among others, these include: Olivia Boisson, New York City Ballet; Michaela DePrince and Chyrstyn Fentroy, Boston Ballet; Precious Adams, English National Ballet; Jasmine Perry, soloist, Los Angeles Ballet; Francesca Hayward, principal dancer, The Royal Ballet; Awa Joannais, Paris Opera Ballet; Nicole Zadra, Hong Kong Ballet; Katlyn Addison, Ballet West and Dara Holmes, Joffrey Ballet.

In joining the list of trailblazers changing the face of ballet, Watson became the first Black ballerina to join the San Francisco Ballet since Kimberly Braylock in 2013.

Braylock retired seven years later just before the shutdown brought on by the pandemic. These women have inspirational ballerina tales that must be shared, because, as Misty Copeland proves, there is power in visibility.

Watson also debuted a new work, “Reciprocity,” with music by award-winning Christopher Willis, a major motion picture composer who was among Watson’s artistic collaborators as a SFB Helgi Tómasson Choreographic Fellow in 2022.

“Reciprocity” captivated the audience last year at San Francisco Ballet School’s (SFBS) annual spring dance festival and gala at the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts/Blue Shield of California Theatre that supports funding for SFBS scholarships and other school activities that promote diversity, equity, and inclusion efforts.

Watson also has a long history of participating in many other charitable activities, including KTVU’s One Warm Coat, Oakland Elizabeth House, and St. Mary’s Senior Shelter.

As a member of SFBS/SFB, Watson has danced a number of roles.

Included in her resume are featured roles in ‘The Nutcracker,” “Cinderella,” “Swan Lake,” “La Sylphide,” “Giselle,” “Don Quixote,” “Symphony in C” and other SFB programs.

During 2024, which will be new artistic director Rojo’s inaugural season, expect to see Watson perform in programs including “Nutcracker” (Dec. 13-30); “Mere Mortals” (Jan. 26-Feb. 1); “British Icons” (Feb. 9-15); “Swan Lake” (Feb. 23-Mar. 3); “A Midsummer Night’s Dream” (Mar. 12-23)” “next@90 encores” (Apr. 2-13); and “Dos Mujeres” (Apr. 4-14).

Tickets for Oakland premiere of “Flower” are available at

Tickets for SFBallet Nutcracker and 2024 Season lineup available at

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