Yuan Yuan Tan was born in Shanghai, China, and trained at Shanghai Dancing School and Stuttgart’s John Cranko School. She joined San Francisco Ballet as a soloist in 1995 and was promoted to principal dancer in 1997.
She has danced lead roles in works such as Tomasson’s Giselle, Swan Lake, Romeo & Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, and Nutcracker; Tomasson/Possokhov’s Don Quixote; Morris’ Sylvia; and Lubovitch’s Othello. She has created roles in Tomasson’s The Fifth Season, Chi-Lin, Silver Ladders, and 7 for Eight; Possokhov’s Magrittomania, Damned, Study in Motion, Fusion, and Diving into the Lilacs; Wheeldon’s Continuum and Quaternary; and Welch’s Tu Tu and Naked.
Her repertory includes Ashton’s Thais Pas de Deux; Balanchine’s Symphony in C, Theme and Variations, Concerto Barocco, Prodigal Son, Apollo, Stravinsky Violin Concerto, and “Diamonds”; Duato’s Without Words; Forsythe’s Artifact Suite; Makarova’s Paquita; McGregor’s Eden/Eden; Ratmansky’s Russian Seasons; and Robbins’ In the Night, Dances at a Gathering, Afternoon of a Faun, and Dybbuk.
Tan received a gold medal and the Nijinsky Award at the 1st Japan International Ballet and Modern Dance Competition in 1993, and a gold medal at the 5th International Ballet Competition in Paris in 1992. A frequent guest artist, Tan headlined “Yuan Yuan Tan and Eight Ballet Stars,” a gala in Nara, Japan in 2003, and “Yuan Yuan Tan and Friends” Gala in Shanghai in 2000. Additional honors include an invitation to the White House in 1999 and The Bud magazine City of Heart award in Shanghai in December 2007. She was featured in Vogue magazine in April 2003 and was named a “Hero of Asia” in the Asian edition of Time magazine in October 2004.
Recent guest appearances include a 2006 charity concert in Shanghai and a performance of the full-length ballet Magpie Bridge, a benefit promoting harmony between China and Japan. In December 2008, Tan was featured as the Snow Queen in the PBS Great Performances broadcast of Tomasson’s Nutcracker, co-produced by San Francisco Ballet and KQED Public Television San Francisco, in association with Thirteen/WNET New York.