Even for people with an aversion to bun-heads, it is difficult to resist the beauty and elegance of professionally trained ballet dancers in a natural amphitheater ringed by Eucalyptus trees. Which is exactly what Rosalie Stern had in mind when she began presenting cultural performances in 1938. As the oldest free program of its kind in the country, the Stern Grove Festival has managed to evolve and embrace a diverse calendar -- this year, they booked Al Jarreau, The Stone Foxes, and Ozomatli among others -- to satisfy our city’s tapenade-nibbling hipsters, brownie-munching burnouts, opinionated art lovers, and high-spirited young families alike. Yet, the San Francisco Ballet remains one of the festival’s highlights. From the comfort of our picnic blankets, we might watch Mendelssohn’s Scotch Symphony burst into life, catch a quick nap or game of Frisbee during intermission, and sit down again before Michael Torke’s Number Nine finds new feet amidst passing clouds and birdsong. Rosalie Stern didn’t give credence to the notion of Philistines. She believed art appreciation was all about access and context. With the help of the San Francisco Ballet, she’s likely to make a believer out of you, too.
Sun., July 29, 2 p.m., 2012