At the age of seven, Sharon Beretta Hess began her ballet training at Petaluma School of Ballet under the direction of Mary Paula. At nine years old, she received her first full scholarship to San Francisco Ballet under the direction of Harold Christensen. She continued under scholarship with San Francisco Ballet for eight additional summers including a two year Ford Foundation Scholarship. In addition Sharon was a first place senior division award recipient in the Helen Cochran Memorial Scholarship competition in 1972 and then after waiting a year to compete again (their rule with a first place) she received another senior division first place award in 1974. She was a soloist and founding member of Petaluma City Ballet as well as being accepted to the Marin Civic Ballet Company. Some of her major roles were Glenda the Good Witch and the Scarecrow in Wizard of Oz; Kitri from Don Quixote; Four swan Pas de Quartre in Swan Lake; Mary in Babes in Toyland; Sugar Plum and Pas de deux, Snow Queen pas de deux, Arabian Pas de Deux, Spanish Chocolate, Rose, Harlequin Doll, and many more in The Nutcracker; as well as many major roles in Snow White, Magic Flute, Coppelia, Les Sylphides, Peter Pan, and Sinatra Suites, to name a few. Sharon performed her first role on pointe as Glenda the Good Witch when she was eight years old and continuing on pointe for 53 years culminating as the Harlequin Doll in Contessi Ballet’s 2018 Nutcracker.
With a quick glimpse into Sharon’s private life she raises beef cows on her family ranch in Chileno Valley, she has flown all over the United States, Canada, and Mexico with her husband, Dan, in their own private plane, worked for a major balloon company, has been an RDA in the same dental office for 45 years, has always enjoyed time with her Mom fondly known as “Fluffy” to those who love her, was fortunate to dance several years with her daughter, Megan, and now loves time with her family and playing with her three year old grandson, Johnny.
Sharon has completed many choreographies over the years for children and adults. She started teaching ballet at the age of 13 and has taught classical ballet, choreography, contemporary, and aerobic classes for 50 years in Sonoma County with the last 22 years at Contessi Ballet.
FORMER ARTISTIC DIRECTOR
Marcella Contessi-Smith provided her students with the opportunity to study classical ballet, regardless of age or ability level. At the age of seventeen, she became a soloist with the ballet company of the Opera House Communale in Florence, Italy. She danced opera and classical repertoire and innovative ballet under the direction of Kyra Nijinsky, daughter of Vaslav Nijinsky.
She danced at the Theatre Liroco of Milano and Qurino of Rome and internationally for 26 years. She was chosen to dance for the President of Mexico, Miguel Allemand, while with these companies.
Over 40 years ago, Mrs. Smith came to Petaluma and opened her own ballet studio. She taught and choreographed many large productions including Cinderella, Hansel and Gretel, The Magic Flute, Peter Pan, and The Nutcracker. In December 2019, she directed her 40th Nutcracker performance.
Mrs. Smith passed away in April 2020. She is survived by her husband, Gary, and son.