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New on Perfume Row: Ministry of Scent

By SHELLEY HANDLER

Step into Ministry of Scent, the newest addition to Fillmore Street’s burgeoning Perfume Row, and inhale. That first whiff may be a symphony of disparate yet appealing notes, or one unwavering deep and delightful tone you can’t quite put your finger on.

Either way, you’ll find this new shop at 2408 Fillmore both an adventure and an education.

First opened a decade ago as Tigerlily on Valencia Street by co-owner Antonia Kohl — and since rechristened the Ministry of Scent — this bijou black and white showcase is a smaller sister shop. The Ministry has been a passion project from the start, driven by Kohl’s own obsession with niche and indie scents. An avid collector, she realized that any trip she took would find her on the hunt for yet another unusual perfume.

In 2014 she took the leap, leaving her work in integrative design and taking a deep dive into the world of scent, opening Tigerlily. She bet on her love of niche perfumes and made that the shop’s focus. In gathering her stock, she passed over ubiquitous designer scents for independent perfumers who brought their distinctly personal tastes into play when crafting niche, often quirky, perfumes.

After six and a half years as solo owner, Kohl teamed with formally trained perfumer Ineke Rühland, creator of the IneKE line of perfumes. Together they transformed Tigerlily into Ministry of Scent, expanding their reach with a considerably larger choice of indie scent houses and individual perfumers. Among the shop’s selection of 80-plus lines are those headed by totally self-taught scent crafters and others, like Rühland, who have deep formal training and years of industry work informing their creations. The inspirations for these perfumes range from the obvious to the wildly obscure, some encompassing entire fantasy worlds from which their scent tales spring.

Take Imaginary Authors. The foundation of this line and source of its scent names is a collection of novels, none of which actually exist, all “written” by imaginary authors. The title of each book hints at the structure of the scent housed in a box made to look like a book. Lined up, the entire collection resembles a custom-bound library, each volume the story of a place or experience held in the bottle within.

A City On Fire, Imaginary Author’s industry-award winning scent, stands you solidly in the midst of a conflagration. Dark, decidedly smoky, it is both the match that lit the fire and the smoke billowing around you. My tastes lean toward the woodsy-smoky realm, so the idea of this perfume grabbed me immediately. That first spritz did not disappoint; this is a burnt match/smothered campfire delight, just the slightest bit bitter, but pleasantly so. It holds fast to its fiery theme for at least an hour, and then, still smoky, slowly begins to caramelize, holding the smoke profile all along. It dwindles very slowly; the next morning there was the tiniest pinpoint of vaguely sweet caramel in its place.

Venturing into co-owner Ineke Rühland’s eponymous IneKE line took me on a lovely, meandering stroll from garden to shore to high-desert forest. These are all places beloved by Rühland and she brings the full force of her Versaille-trained, industry-honed skills into play to capture them in the bottle.

Her Idyllwild scent celebrates California’s high desert enclave in the dusty upper reaches of Riverside’s San Jacinto Mountains. Notes of Douglas fir and pine mark the resinous hit of forest made sharper by the desert sun, and sage brings in the leafy, dusty notes that come to life as you hike the hills. Rhubarb unites this all with a gentle citrusy tang right through the middle. And just below dust and fir forest, the scent retains a bright, gently green note that both comforts and urges you on.

For all its serious scent-aficionado wares, the Ministry invites exploration in a relaxed and welcoming way. The staff, a group of four self-professed “scent nerds,” are at their happiest pulling samples from the simplest prompts. If all you know is that you like lavender, say the word and they will quickly gather four lavender-forward fragrances. If amber is your jam, manager Michael Ryan will show you amber woven into forms you never knew it could take. This is one place where it helps not to be too certain about what you want, because there is so much to discover, and so much of it delights.

“We looked for a long time on Fillmore Street, and the small, welcoming spot we found is perfect for us,” says Kohl. “This is such a beautiful stretch of an altogether welcoming neighborhood. We are just so happy to be here.”

I can honestly say, from watching the shoppers who lingered to sample and sniff, the delight is mutual.

Fillmore’s Perfume Row

Follow your nose down Fillmore Street’s Perfume Row.

Aesop | Australian import offering luxe proprietary skincare products, home and body fragrances, 2450 Fillmore.

Ministry of Scent | New to Fillmore, an S.F. original known for its wide selection of niche and indie scent houses, 2408 Fillmore.

Le Labo | French perfumer selling proprietary perfumes and home scents, 2238 Fillmore.

Credo Beauty | A small national chain focusing on a “clean” line of all-natural scents and beauty care, 2136 Fillmore.

Diptyque Fillmore | Paris-born scent house known for proprietary candles, perfumes and candle-related decor, 2122 Fillmore.

Byredo | Swedish perfumer popular with fashionistas offering high-end beauty products, 2000 Fillmore.

EARLIER: “The poetry of perfume

Now it’s Camellia Salon

Yuki Matsui now operates the salon at 1724 Fillmore, named for a favorite flower.

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

It might be called “The Little Salon That Could,” tucked away in the ground-floor retail space of an historic Victorian at 1724 Fillmore.

For decades it was called Citrine Salon, until the pandemic forced its closing. Beloved Citrine proprietor Rene Cohen, who had struggled to keep the business alive by adding racks of quirky fashion, shelves of high-end jewelry and outdoor haircuts — a complicated trick on cool San Francisco days — died during the shutdown and the shop was boarded up with sheets of plywood.

Enter Yukina Matsui, a soft-spoken hairstylist who moved here from her native Japan some 15 years earlier. “Yuki” saw the promise of the place. With the signing of a new lease a few months ago, Rene’s lively clutter metamorphosed into a spare, bright-lit salon now home to several stylists and Ukrainian nail artist Sofiia Pidlozna. The boards came down, a handsome wrought-iron fence went up, and a hand-painted — by Yuki — sign was hung announcing its resurrection as Camellia Salon.

“Rene had the camellia plant in the back yard,” Yuki says. “And my mom, who died over 10 years ago, loved camellias,” which flourish in Japan. It was a natural name for the new salon.

Its home has history. When veteran real estate agent Dona Crowder bought the three-level Victorian in the mid-1980s, the ground-level retail space housed a vacuum cleaner repair shop. A second-hand clothing shop followed before Citrine Salon opened in the early 1990s. The upper floors, also dark during the pandemic, continue to serve as office space for therapists.

Camellia is on the ground floor of Victorian Square in a building relocated there.

Crowder has been part of the metamorphosis — of building and neighborhood — for decades. Born into a storied Alabama family, she came west with her mother at age 16 and never looked back. Her mother, Dottie Crowder, the only daughter of a World War I widow, “knew one person in Burlingame,” according to her daughter. But she made up for any lack of California connections with wide-ranging intelligence, energy and determination. In the 1960s she founded an independent real estate business headquartered in the Fillmore neighborhood. Dona, after graduating from UC Santa Barbara, joined her mother in the business in 1976. 

Before its purchase by Dona Crowder the building and the block between Post and Sutter had metamorphoses of their own. “Carlo Middione had the idea of creating a Victorian Square here,” Crowder says. Before Middione became the celebrated chef and owner of Vivande Porta Via restaurant on Fillmore, he worked for the Redevelopment Agency. With the help of San Francisco Heritage, which was created in 1971, he engineered the relocation of 12 Victorian houses. Among them were the salon’s building and those nearby, one of which housed Marcus Books for decades — and before that was the home of the legendary Jimbo’s Bop City when it was in its original location on Post Street in Japantown.

For years the block was tended by nearby resident Zema Daniels, known in the neighborhood as “One Hand” for his talent for shooting pool with one hand, or sometimes as Mr. Hands. “For years, ‘One Hand’ kept the street clean,” says Crowder. “He would be out with his bucket and brooms, cleaning the sidewalks.”

“She was such a sweetheart,” Crowder says of her longtime friend and tenant Rene Cohen, owner of Citrine. Camellia owner Yuki and Rene never met. But so strong was the spirit of her predecessor that Yuki has taken pains to keep it alive. She moved Rene’s azaleas and other plants into freshly prepared new garden plots and relocated the lemon tree into a sunny corner where it now thrives. The backyard garden abuts a totally renovated parking lot, also managed by Crowder.

In early May, the block suffered a blow when a two-alarm fire broke out across the street in the Jones Senior Home building. That forced the evacuation of about 100 residents and shut down the Burger King on the corner. There were several injuries, but no fatalities.

Burger King quickly reopened, but no one is predicting when all of the apartments will again be habitable. Given the resilience of the renovated buildings in Victorian Square, however, and the quiet determination of Yuki and her friends at Camellia Salon and her nearby neighbors, the future of the block looks to be in good hands.

Sunrise at Alta Plaza

Photograph by Robert Starkey

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

While most of his neighbors are still asleep, Robert Starkey can be found roaming Alta Plaza Park, searching for new angles to photograph the dawn.

“Walking to Alta Plaza to photograph the sunrise I get exercise, connection with nature, the unconditional love of dogs — and a feeling of accomplishment,” he says. He shares his photographs of the sunrise on Flickr with those who slept through it.

The sunrise photography project began in January after Starkey moved from Sonoma County back to San Francisco. It was occasioned by the darkest period of his life. 

“My entire body collapsed with Stage 4 bone cancer,” he says. “I was in hospitals, nursing homes and care facilities for a year and a half, and lost everything.” When he finally recovered, he was offered a place to live in a friend’s home near Alta Plaza.

“One of the most important aspects of my healing is to find purpose in each day,” he says. Shooting the sunrise and sharing the photographs helps provide that purpose.

Photograph by Robert Starkey

Photography has been a lifelong passion for the committed globetrotter. Sunrise at Alta Plaza is only the latest of his photographic obsessions. His work in series began in earnest when he moved to the Oakmont community in Sonoma County. 

“I found myself in the middle of 12,000 acres of protected land, with wildlife everywhere to photograph,” he says. “Also at Oakmont there is a polo field, where I found I could photograph beautiful sunrises.”

Now he is inspired by the sunrise at Alta Plaza.

“This morning it was clear, with beautiful blue skies when I left home,” he says. “But about the time I got to the park, the fog had rolled in and the temperature dropped about 20 degrees.” Still, he managed a few great photos of the fog-infused sunrise before heading back home to warm up.

“I keep thinking I’ll run out of new perspectives,” Starkey says, “but that hasn’t happened yet.”

Photograph by Robert Starkey

MORE: Robert Starkey’s photographs on Flickr
FROM THE CHRONICLE: “The light in darkness on Nextdoor

Pacific Heights Health Club ends its 35-year run

A retractable roof in the weight room has been one of the club’s distinctions.

PACIFIC HEIGHTS HEALTH CLUB, with its lofty-sounding name and low-key vibe — where designer workout garb is not required — will close its doors for the last time on November 27, the day before Thanksgiving, at precisely 3 p.m. 

Amy Lang, who took ownership of the club 15 years ago and appointed herself chief motivating officer, announced the move in a letter to members on November 1.

“San Francisco has changed. Retail has changed. The fitness industry has changed,” Lang said in an interview. 

The club’s personal training program will continue in the fitness center of the nearby 2000 Post Street apartments, between Steiner and Pierce.

Lang intends to focus, mostly in online sessions, on coaching women from 45 to 55 interested in weight loss — especially those in tech, who share her work roots.

A longtime neighborhood institution, the urban gym at 2356 Pine, just west of Fillmore, has gone through a number of incarnations. It opened in 1984 — when the city had only six health clubs — as a men-only club that offered massages, a hot tub, and was staffed with locker room attendants. It was frequented by a number of celebrity clients, including, for a time, John F. Kennedy Jr.

David Kirk opened the front part of the club to women when he took ownership in 1990. A dozen years later he opened the entire club to all. 

Fleeing a worklife in finance and tech, Amy Lang took over as owner in 2004, adding a cheeky sense of marketing along with yoga, Zumba and Pilates classes. Later she discontinued the classes and focused on small group training for older people, a change that didn’t sit well with some of the regulars. 

“It created a bit of a kerfuffle,” Lang acknowledges, but also revealed a deeper truth. “It was then that I realized the club is a better place for a person who is a do-it-yourself type of exerciser,” Lang says. “I didn’t know you don’t morph a health club into what you want it to be. But what I’ve learned now allows me to do what I’ve always wanted to do.”

Little Free Library lives on

The Little Free Library (and doghouse) at 2418 Pine Street.

To Our Dear Little Neighborhood:

When a disturbing event occurs, it’s the ordinary, everyday heroes who step up to save the day.

Our neighborhood’s Little Free Library was violently attacked and toppled on May 29. It stood in front of our home at 2418 Pine Street, on one of the city’s bustling public sidewalks. While the destruction may not qualify as a true tragedy, the Little Free Library served an entire neighborhood — and beyond — in our big little town of San Francisco, and was a true loss.

The library’s grand opening took place last fall, accompanied by a ceremonial ribbon-cutting and all-around good cheer among our neighbors and friends. For months, the library worked its magic on children and adults who wanted to share what they had read and borrow what others submitted: mysteries, spy novels, romances, the adventures of Harry Potter, science, psychology — you name it. It became a meeting place for exchanging ideas as well as books. Kids and parents stopped by daily to peruse the latest titles, and dog walkers paused to grab a biscuit from the library’s little doghouse.

The Little Free Library on Pine Street had become part of the connective tissue helping to bind our neighborhood together, and its absence was felt immediately. Neighbors began commiserating with us and with each other. Our front door bell rang steadily, with people offering encouraging words of support and expressing their sympathy for the loss of the beloved lending library. Neighbors and anonymous well-wishers left notes and sent emails explaining their personal feelings of loss — and volunteered their time, help and funds to once again raise our book house. Some passersby actually broke into tears as they viewed the fallen library and tried to make sense out of the senseless.

“I was so saddened to see your library broken on the ground this morning,” a neighbor wrote. “The little library added beauty to our neighborhood and it is shameful that people are not respectful.” Another said: “Hi, neighbor. I saw what happened when I walked by and was tearful. I am so sorry this happened.”

The outpouring of concern, caring and love was inspiring, unexpected in its volume, and so heartwarming.

A crisis, even a relatively small one such as this, has a way of giving a clean window through which to view the world — a kind of reset button in a cosmic sense. The cement pedestal that secured the Little Free Library appeared strong, but it turned out to be vulnerable and capable of being destroyed. In contrast, our neighbors — even from beyond our familiar few blocks — turned out to be the real pillars of strength, resilience and fortitude. The human spirit rose above the tragedy and wound up strengthening our bonds and furthering a sense of community.

Heartfelt thanks to everyone who expressed their love and support. It is the people who make this world go around. Evil recedes and love wins.

THE MEYERS FAMILY

P.S. The Little Free Library is back up and ready for book and conversation sharing once again.

P.P.S. Library hours are: “Always open.”

24 years on retreat

“What I like about it most is I’m really in charge of my own ship,” says Judith Skinner.

FILM | JESSICA BERNSTEIN-WAX

My mother’s friend Judith Skinner started a Tibetan Buddhist retreat in her Pacific Heights apartment in 1995. At the time, she thought it would last the traditional three years, three months and three days.

Almost 24 years later, she remains on retreat, a Buddhist practice that involves solitude, meditation and introspection — and can take place anywhere from a remote cave to a rent-controlled studio apartment in San Francisco.

I have known Judith almost all of my life. As a child, I visited her at the Ewam Choden Tibetan Buddhist Center near Berkeley, where she lived for many years. When Judith started her retreat, I thought three years sounded like a long time to lead a mostly solitary existence.

As her retreat extended for more and more years, I started to get curious. What did she do all day? And why had she dropped out of “normal life”?

To find out, I spent about a year and a half filming her on my days off and weekends. The resulting short documentary, On Retreat, will screen at this year’s SF DocFest, the San Francisco Documentary Film Festival. It screens on June 8 at 12:15 p.m. and on June 11 at 7 p.m. at the Roxie Theater.

You might think documentary footage of someone on a meditation retreat would be about as visually exciting as watching paint dry. But Judith is an engaging San Francisco character.

To help finance her retreat, she worked as a gardener for many years. Now in her 70s, she follows a simple daily routine involving Buddhist practice, writing and trips to Cal-Mart in Laurel Village.

She has almost no belongings and owns just one fork, but still manages to look sharp every day. She goes for regular haircuts at Patrick Richards Salon on Sacramento Street, where she tended the flower boxes for years.

Rather than focus primarily on the logistics of Judith’s retreat, my film explores her reasons for going on retreat in the first place and why she’s continued for so long.

“My friends tease me that retreat is the all-purpose excuse: I get out of everything,” Judith told me laughingly during one of our interviews. “On a deep level, what I like about it most is I’m really in charge of my own ship.”

Judith truly does seems to be content with her quiet, somewhat isolated life. She credits Buddhist practice and her retreat with making her a calmer, less reactive person.

Despite her solitary lifestyle, Judith says she hasn’t felt lonely these last 24 years. The retreat and the city of San Francisco have been her constant and familiar companions.

A rabbi and a priest walk into a neighborhood

Rabbi Lawrence “Larry” Raphael at Congregation Sherith Israel.

A memorial service for Rabbi Lawrence Raphael will be held on May 4 at 6 p.m. at Congregation Sherith Israel, located at 2266 California Street. His friend Father Xavier Lavagetto recalls their time in the neighborhood.

I WELL REMEMBER when Rabbi Larry Raphael came to Sherith Israel. I was pastor at St. Dominic’s Church, and we had an immediate connection: We both faced the challenge of repairing buildings, while what we wanted most was to build up our people.

I admired greatly his courage; he stepped out of academia into the fray of leading a congregation that faced a daunting challenge. But it would never be enough to retrofit the synagogue; he wanted to strengthen his people.

From our first meeting, it was apparent that he had a passion for learning that shined, invited and blessed. Learning is not something static; Judaism is a living dynamic, a conversation ultimately with the God who always walks with his people. He shared his passion and set his people’s hearts and minds ablaze. He made Sherith Israel a light on the hill, and it shed light on this priest from St. Dominic’s in the valley below.

To be on a panel with him was an adventure. It was the insights that he brought that made every conversation a light in the darkness. His was a passion for people that welcomed even those on the margins. In a world that is too eager to build walls, he built bridges.

His care for the larger community was real. I pray he saw it in us, too. The rule at St. Dominic’s was simple: If Rabbi Raphael asks, the answer is yes!

— Fr. Xavier Lavagetto OP

The dancer is a choreographer

Photograph of Myles Thatcher rehearsing S.F. Ballet dancers by Erik Tomasson

CULTURE BEAT | PAMELA FEINSILBER

Myles Thatcher first came to Pacific Heights when he lived in the dorm for San Francisco Ballet School students on Jackson Street. He joined the company in 2010, and still lives nearby.

As a member of the corps de ballet, he has danced in everything from Swan Lake to Balanchine gems to world premiere works by today’s hottest choreographers. In fact, Thatcher, one of S.F. Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson’s youngest commissioned choreographers, has created some 15 one-act works himself — and he’s only 28.

This month, you can see him perform when S.F. Ballet presents John Neumeier’s heart-wrenching story ballet The Little Mermaid from April 19 to 28.

When did you know you had to become a ballet dancer?

I started dancing when I was 8 or 9 years old and couldn’t imagine doing anything else. I started training seriously at 13 or 14 and moved away at 15.

You left home at 15?

I’m from a small town in eastern Pennsylvania, and it’s hard to find a ballet school that’s high caliber enough to get you into the career circuit. I moved to Boca Raton to a place like a ballet boarding school. From there, I moved to New York City to train, and then I joined the top level of the S.F. Ballet School. I fell in love with the city and company when I did a summer program here at 17. I just knew if there was any way I could live and work here, I wanted to pursue it.

What about pursuing dancemaking?

I remember telling a dance teacher I wanted to do choreography, and she rolled her eyes. I kind of lost interest as I was getting my technical abilities up to par, but then we had this opportunity to choreograph. I made my piece on trainees at the S.F. Ballet School, and Helgi Tomasson chose mine to go to a festival the National Ballet School of Canada was hosting. That went well, so they asked me to do another piece for the S.F. Ballet School.

And you never stopped.

Helgi asked me to do work for the company, and from there I started working with other companies, nationally and internationally, for galas, competitions, films.

Would you prefer to be known as a great dancer or a great choreographer?

I would not give up choreography to pursue anything else. I’m happy that I’m setting the groundwork for when I can no longer dance. The average age to stop dancing is the mid-30s, though we have some dancers in their 40s. Right now, I’m balancing the two.

But you’re looking ahead.

I would not want to stop dancing yet, but it’s a short career. Creating dances is a beautiful way to express myself in this art form in a different way. It allows me to discover things with other people. You can’t do ballet alone. You can’t learn it off YouTube. The human element is why it’s survived all these years.

Explain a bit about The Little Mermaid.

It’s not your typical Disney version. It’s a really powerful and moving story about giving yourself to a person who doesn’t have the capacity to give back. The mermaid sacrifices a great deal to try to be with him. The story might be a metaphor for a poet character who is constantly at the mermaid’s side, who might have been in love with a straight man. By the end, we realize the mermaid and the poet narrator have been dealing with events in kind of the same way, like a thread through the piece.

What will you be doing in the piece?

John Neumeier is just a genius storyteller. Being able to work with him, you realize every step in that ballet has a narrative intention, down to the steps for the corps. I’m one of the dancers who make up the sea; we wear long blue skirts with white at the bottom. We also reflect the mermaid’s emotions: She comes from a peaceful place where she belongs and goes to a place where no one’s really happy, so there are moments we reflect tumultuous feelings. Once she gets on land, I am one of the ship’s passengers and wedding couples.

What do you do on a typical day off?

Many days, a few dancers will go to Roam on Fillmore to unwind and have a burger. A little bar called Fat Angel always has an interesting selection of wines and beers, and they have a really good mac and cheese. Upper Fillmore has changed a lot, but I kind of grew up going to La Med, and I still go back there.

They gave Calvary a social conscience

Photograph of the Rev. Dr. Laird J. Stuart by Alvin Johnson

By FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

The Rev. Dr. Laird J. Stuart followed the Rev. Dr. James G. Emerson as pastor of the Calvary Presbyterian Church at Fillmore and Jackson, both chronologically and in a determination to bring to the historic church a greater awareness of social justice issues. On December 19, 2018, he followed Emerson, who died three months earlier, on September 12, to the heavens.

Emerson was a powerful preacher and a pioneering pastor of Calvary in the 1980s. And he practiced what he preached about equality and justice, even getting arrested while participating in a 1987 interracial civil rights “march for brotherhood” in Forsyth County, Georgia.

In 1988, he was one of the founders of the San Francisco Interfaith Council, which brought together leaders of different faith traditions in the city. He traveled to India and met with Mother Teresa. “I told her, ‘We’re Protestants, but we pray for you,’ ” Emerson remembered. She told him: “Well pray more. We are all one people.”

Photograph of the Rev. Dr. James G. Emerson by Sara Butz

Stuart built on the social consciousness Emerson had brought to what was then a sometimes staid, largely affluent, almost entirely white congregation.

Stuart served from 1993 to 2010 and led the fight against homophobia in the Presbyterian church. He was the first president of a nationwide group that lobbied what he called “the radical middle” in the Presbyterian church, urging that people be ordained as ministers, deacons and elders regardless of gender or sexual orientation.

Today Calvary has a diverse group of ministers and banners hanging outside with a rainbow flag declaring that “Black Lives Matter” and proclaiming it a sanctuary church — suggesting that both men made their mark.

Birth and rebirth at the ballet

Sharonjean Leeds returned to the stage in the finale of Smuin’s Christmas Ballet.

CULTURE BEAT | FRAN MORELAND JOHNS

The New Year was still a couple of weeks away when a unique celebration of birth, rebirth and family joy took place at Smuin Ballet’s annual Christmas Ballet at Yerba Buena Center for the Arts. Sebastian-Alexander Gottschalk, age one month, was in the audience when dancer Sharonjean Leeds, age 70+, spun her way across the stage in the traditional White Christmas finale.

Each had overcome more than a few odds to be there.

Sebastian arrived at Kaiser Hospital on November 14, eight weeks ahead of schedule. His mom,  Shaunte Gipson Gottschalk, is a nurse and was quick to get to the hospital when things indicated he might make an early appearance. His dad, Georg, who works with MuleSoft, a Salesforce company, was inconveniently on a plane in London, about to take off for India. “If you’re headed to India,” the doctor texted, “you’re going the wrong direction.” Several trips through international security and one Chicago connection later, Georg got home to meet his new son at one minute before midnight. Sebastian, who weighed in at 2 lbs., 2.7 oz., then spent his first few weeks in Kaiser’s Neonatal Intensive Care Unit on Geary.

Baby and mom at his first ballet.

Soon after they got him home, the new parents looked at their tickets to the Christmas Ballet, a long family tradition, and decided to introduce Sebastian to Smuin. Bundled in a baby wrap, mittens and blanket, he snuggled his way happily through the performance.

Onstage in the finale was dancer Leeds, longtime ballet teacher at the University of San Francisco, who several years ago might have seemed unlikely to walk again. A fall in her Presidio Heights basement in 2016 left her with a pelvis broken in five places and a badly broken left arm. Once out of the hospital, she spent five weeks in rehab and two months with in-home care — but then set about getting back to dancing.

Leeds had last danced onstage in New Shoes, Old Souls, a piece for three women and one man choreographed by the late Michael Smuin and performed in the spring of 1999. She continues to take classes with the company. So when her husband, local dentist Rick Leeds, bid on a walk-on Christmas Ballet appearance at Smuin’s 2018 gala, artistic director Celia Fushille created a feature role in the finale instead.

Septuagenarian dancer and tiny audience member didn’t meet at the event. But both (with his parents speaking for Sebastian) agreed the event was a spectacular way to usher in the new year.