If you become aware of the small, faraway Baltic country of Estonia in The City this week, there are two reasons why: an intensive marketing and sales campaign for the Discover Estonia Expo and Tiit Helimets.
Helimets, a great San Francisco Ballet principal dancer, is probably of more cultural interest than, for example, Saku Kuld, the finest beer of Estonia's oldest brewery, also part of the campaign.
Born and raised in Estonia, Helimets is the Estonian National Ballet's company manager in the U.S. and the artistic director of a gala Friday at the Palace of Fine Arts at which the 94-year-old company debuts in the U.S.
Helimets, who made Estonian dance history when he performed the role of Prince Siegfried in "Swan Lake" at age 18 with the Estonian National Ballet, is proud of his home troupe.
"This is a classically trained ballet company, using the Vaganova Method for teaching. Turning 95 next year, this is a very old company, with a longstanding tradition of ballet. These dancers in Estonia are national heroes," he says.
Also a choreographer, Helimets' own "Time," set to music by Paula Matthusen and text by Abi Basch, is featured on Friday's program, as well as the third act of Marina Kesler's "Othello," and Helimets and Ballet San Jose's Alexsandra Meijer dancing the adagio from "Swan Lake."
Estonian singers and musicians round out the evening. Pianist Hando Nahkur performs in his first North American appearance, along with popular Broadway singer Hanna-Liina Võsa and the 55-member Estonian Youth Wind Orchestra, conducted by Aavo Ots, featuring musicians ages 15 to 25.
During the week, the World Estonian Festival (ESTO) joins with Lääneraniku Eesti Päevad (LEP), the West Coast Estonian Festival, for LEP-ESTO 2013, offering a slate of events throughout the Bay Area, including a technology business conference iEstonia in Silicon Valley, a film festival premiering the latest work by Jim and Maureen Tusty (directors of "The Singing Revolution"), the traditional Laulupidu song festival and a range of culture-related seminars.IF YOU GO
Estonian Culture Festival gala
Where: Palace of Fine Arts, 3301 Lyon St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Friday
Tickets: $65 to $125