The San Francisco Conservatory of Dance, owned and operated since 2004 by its founders Summer Lee Rhatigan and her husband Lanny Berenson, will be closing its doors following the conclusion of its 2018 summer program in August.
Reason for the Closure
Factor 1: In October 2017, raging wildfires devastated Summer’s and Lanny’s entire Sonoma Valley neighborhood and seriously damaged their home, leading them to relocate into lovely-but-temporary accommodations in San Francisco where they undertook a reassessment of everything important to them.
Factor 2: Having both spent their early lives in Europe, which they have subsequently visited regularly throughout their 28-year marriage, Summer and Lanny have for many years shared the long-range goal of moving to France. When the right time for the move would eventually arrive, they expected that Summer’s European Union (EU) passport, which she holds by virtue of her dual US/UK citizenship, would spare them from French immigration obstacles—since prevailing EU law entitles the couple to live anywhere within the European Union without the need to apply for and regularly renew highly-restrictive visas. However, when the United Kingdom shocked the world in 2016 by voting in a referendum to separate from the EU (aka “Brexit”, short for British exit), the couple’s long-range goal was thrown into jeopardy as the terms of the separation were worked out to determine the effects on European immigration policies. While most of the terms are still being negotiated, it has recently become clear that if Summer and Lanny were to establish residency in France before March 29, 2019, they would be “grandfathered” into the status currently provided by Summer’s EU passport—allowing them to work and engage in new artistic endeavors in France.
The couple’s difficult decision to accelerate the timing of their move by several years was effectively dictated by a freak combination of circumstances (ie. Factors 1 & 2).
We—Summer and Lanny—are extremely proud of what the Conservatory has accomplished over the past fourteen years thanks to our exemplary faculty and staff. We believe that together we’ve succeeded in creating a learning environment that has positively impacted some 3,000 young people in significant ways.
In an ideal world, perhaps, the Conservatory would be able to continue operating without us. In actuality, however, there were no candidates among our faculty and staff prepared to assume full responsibility for the school’s continued operation. As we feel very strongly that the considerable success the Conservatory has enjoyed was the direct result of the unique organizational culture that has evolved over many years through the contributions of all of our faculty, staff, students, volunteers and supporters, we did not even contemplate the possibility of turning over the organization to an outsider without any part in its history.
We are looking forward to teaching dance and making art during our final summer and to enjoying the time we’re able to spend with people who are, and will continue to be, extremely important in our lives. We are also thrilled to have learned that many of our alumni are planning trips to San Francisco this summer from far and wide to say goodbye to this incarnation of the Conservatory.
Finally, as we are by no means finished organizing dance projects, we invite everyone to stay in touch to see what we will be working on in Europe. As the future unfolds we will post information and links on the Conservatory website (which will remain operational with intermittent updates following the closure).
To everyone who has been, or is soon-to-be, associated—either closely or loosely—with the Conservatory, please accept our heartfelt best wishes for good health and success in your endeavors.