Scope and Content of Collection
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Title: Carlos Carvajal Papers
Dates: circa 1920s-2019
Collection Number: 021.003
Carvajal, Carlos, 1931-.
Extent: 3 Document Cartons, 3 Document Boxes, and 4 Oversize Boxes / 12 Linear Feet
Museum of Performance and Design, Performing Arts Library
San Francisco, California 94124
Abstract: The son of a Filipino immigrant, folk and ballet dancer/choreographer Carlos Carvajal has been recognized as one of the leaders
of the San Francisco Bay Area's dance renaissance in the 1970s and served for 12 seasons as Co-Artistic Director of the San
Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Although he began as a folk dancer, in 1951 Carvajal started dancing with San Francisco Ballet
(SFB), then abroad with companies such as Ballet Nacional of Venezuela. He served as ballet master and associate choreographer
with SFB in the 1960s and has created more than 200 works for ballet, opera and television, including SFB, SF Opera, Oakland
Ballet, and Dance Theater of Harlem. In 1970, he founded Dance Spectrum, choreographing ballets that explored religion, mythology
and eastern philosophies, as well as folk dance from around the world. The Carlos Carvajal Papers contain paper, photographic,
and video documentation of his early career as a dancer/choreographer, his career with San Francisco Ballet, materials related
to his company, Dance Spectrum, performances of his works by groups such as Oakland Ballet Company and Peninsula Ballet Theatre
(where Carvajal served as Artistic Director then Director Emeritus), as well as materials related to the Worlds Arts West/Ethnic
Dance Festival. The collection is arranged in the following series: I. Personal; II: Photographs; III: Choreographic Works;
IV: Dance Spectrum; V: San Francisco Ballet; VI: Other Companies and Professional Work; VII: World Arts West/San Francisco
Ethnic Dance Festival; VIII: Zarzuela Festival; IX: Posters; and X: Audiovisual Materials.
Language of Material: English
The collection is open for research.
Reproduction of these materials can occur only if the copying falls within the provisions of the doctrine of fair use. Copyright
varies by item.
[Identification of item]. Carlos Carvajal Papers. Collection Number: 021.003 . Museum of Performance and Design, Performing
The items were donated by Carlos Carvajal in two accessions in 2004 and 2021 respectively.
The son of a Filipino immigrant, folk and ballet dancer/choreographer Carlos Carvajal has been recognized as one of the leaders
of San Francisco Bay Area's dance. Carvajal was born in San Francisco on June 3, 1931 and has spent most of his life in the
On his father’s side, Carvajal is part of the third generation of a famous and much honored Filipino theatrical family. His
paternal grandfather, Don Jose Carvajal was the director and actor of the Compania Carvajal of Spanish Operettas and Zarzuelas
(zarzuelas are a form of operetta that was brought over to the Philippines from Spain). His paternal grandmother, “La Tagaroma”,
was the Compania’s prima donna. Don Jose was also referenced in José Rizal’s "Noli Me Tangere" ("Touch Me Not"), published
in 1897, which played a crucial role in the political history of the Philippines, as the controversial novel indirectly influenced
the Phillipine Revolution for independence from Spain in 1898. The following generation was also heavily involved in performance.
Carvajal’s uncle Eliseo (Cheong) Carvajal, worked as an actor and starred in the first Filipino film in the Spanish language,
"Secreto de confesión" in 1939. His father (also named Carlos), performed as a stage magician and hypnotist, and his aunt
Patring (Monang) Carvajal became famous, first as an expressive dancer, then later as the first Aswang [vampire] in the new
talking movies, and was later heralded as the “Queen of Horror Pictures” by the press for her versatility of roles and make
up, some created by her own son Ernesto.
Carvajal began his dance career as a teenager, starting with folk dance. While still in high school, he joined the Chang International
Folk Dance Group, as part of the Group’s Exhibition Ensemble. At the age of 19, Carvajal became the group's director. Carvajal
then joined the Madelynne Green's Festival Workshop, where he partnered with Madelynne Green herself on multiple performances.
Carvajal learned various forms of folk dance during this time and in 1954, he was featured on the cover of Let's Dance, the
official publication of the Folk Dance Federation of Calfornia, Inc.
Around the same time Carvajal participated in folk dancing groups, it was suggested to him to try ballet. As a result, he
studied at the San Francisco Ballet School and then officially joined the San Francisco Ballet in 1951. After performing with
SF Ballet for a few years, Carvajal relocated to Europe, settling in France around 1955, when he joined the corps de ballet
of the Grand Ballet de Marquis de Cuevas. While with the company, he had the opportunity to perform in a variety of works
such as one of the company's most successful productions, "The Sleeping Beauty", performing as the African Prince in the ballet's
iconic "Rose Adagio". Carvajal was featured in several works with this company, dancing leading roles in works by choreographers
such as George Skibine and John Cranko. After the death of the Marquis de Cuevas in February, 1961, Grand Ballet de Marquis
de Cuevas dissolved. Carvajal joined the Bremen Ballet as principal dancer and assistant ballet master for two seasons, then
to Grand-Théatre de Bordeaux, where Carlos created ballets for many grand operas such "Aida", "Lakme", "Samson and Delilah",
and other operettas. Carvajal also choreographed a full-length "Coppelia", "Nutcracker", and several more original premieres
for the ballet company as Danseur Etoile and associate choreographer/ballet master. The year spent at Grand-Théatre de Bordeaux
was a very intense and successful learning experience for Carvajal, where "in only one season where [he] spread my choreographic
wings with confidence and joy". His mentors were theatre general director, Mr. Roger Lalande, and his wife, a former ballerina.
After Carvajal left Europe, he went to Caracas, Venezuela. During his first season with the Ballet Nacional de Venezuela,
besides ballets for the company, he created 48 dances for the popular TV show "Show de Aldemaro Romero" and learned how to
use that technology, which would continue to influence his choreography. While he would continue to work with Ballet Nacional
de Venezuela in subsequent years, Carvajal permanently relocated to San Francisco following his first year.
After returning to San Francisco, Carvajal returned to SF Ballet as the Ballet Master and Assistant Choreographer. Carvajal
worked with dancers on annual works such as Nutcracker, taught company class, and choreographed new works for the company's
repertory and summer workshop series. Influenced by his time in Europe, his background with folk dance, and involvement with
the artists in San Francisco's Haight Ashbury, Carvajal sought to push boundaries with his choreography. Examples of this
included using projections, motion picture, images, and unconventional music in his works. One such example was his work "Genesis
70", set to Terry Riley's "In C". The work used mylar, projections, colors and patterns on stage in a way that had not been
done before. The audience reaction was heavily mixed, with some critics and audience members loving the work, and others finding
it too chaotic and felt in brought in the "wrong audience". This led to SF Ballet management turning away from venues such
as City College and eventually led to Carvajal leaving the company in 1970.
Almost immediately after, Carvajal founded Dance Spectrum in 1971. The company came together quickly as talent Carvajal worked
with closely at SF Ballet, including dancers and production staff, joined the company. The critics who had also enjoyed Carvajal's
works followed as well, wanting to see what the new company would do. Full length ballets that premiered during this time
include "Crystal Slipper", Carvajal's adaptation of Cinderella, "Wintermas", and "Carmina Burana". During the company's tenure,
Carvajal choreographed ballets that explored religion, mythology and eastern philosophies, as well as folk dance from around
the world, creating over fifty works during the company's ten year tenure.
After Dance Spectrum held its final performances at the Grace Cathedral featuring Carvajal's seminal work, "Totentanz", Carvajal
continued to remain active as a choreographer, performer, and teacher. He worked with companies such as San Francisco Opera
and Oakland Ballet Company, among others. Carvajal served as the Artistic Director for Peninsula Ballet Theatre from 1992
through 2010 before being named Director Emeritus. Carvajal choreographed a full-length Nutcracker in 1994, which Peninsula
Ballet Theatre performed annually until 2010. This production was also presented by Oakland Ballet Company.
Carvajal remained active with San Francisco's ethnic dance community throughout his career. When Dance Spectrum was active,
the company also hosted various ethnic dance artists at their San Francisco studio, such as Flamenco dancer Rosa Montoya and
Indian classical dancer Chitresh Das, among others. Carvajal's background in folk dance and interest in dance from around
the world also helped plant the seeds for what would become the Ethnic Dance Festival, playing an active role in bringing
dancers together for the first festival performance in 1978, which remains an annual tradition in San Francisco. Later, he
was named co-Artistic Director for World Arts West's San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival in 2005. He held the role for twelve
seasons with co-Artistic Director C.K. Ladzekpo. His last season was in 2017 and he was named Artistic Director Emeritus in
Among his several achievements, other honors/grants/awards include five from the National Endowment for the Arts, the San
Francisco Arts Commission, the Critics’ Circle and an Isadora Duncan Lifetime Achievement Award.
Scope and Content of Collection
The Carlos Carvajal Papers contain paper, photographic, and video documentation of his early career as a dancer/choreographer,
his career with San Francisco Ballet, materials related to his company, Dance Spectrum, performances of his works by groups
such as Oakland Ballet Company and Peninsula Ballet Theatre (where Carvajal served as Artistic Director then Director Emeritus),
as well as materials related to the Worlds Arts West/Ethnic Dance Festival. The papers include programs, pre-performance press
and subsequent reviews, flyers, promotional collateral, posters, and videos of various performances of Carvajal's works. The
collection also includes print photographs featuring key performers and works. The collection also features several scrapbooks
from Carvajal's career at San Francisco Ballet and Dance Spectrum, featuring press reviews and interviews.
Original order was mostly maintained, with items being physically stored by medium. The collection is arranged in the following
series: I. Personal; II: Photographs; III: Choreographic Works; IV: Dance Spectrum; V: San Francisco Ballet; VI: Other Companies
and Professional Work; VII: World Arts West/ San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival; VIII: Zarzuela Festival; IX: Posters; and
X: Audiovisual Materials.
San Francisco Ballet
World Arts West
San Francisco Bay Area (Calif.)
San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival
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