Ricardo Bustamante (Medellín, Colombia, 1962) studied at the Academia de Ballet de Medellín and began his professional dance career in 1978 with the Ballet de Caracas in Venezuela. Two years later, he received a scholarship to continue his studies at the San Francisco Ballet School and after six months of training he was accepted as an élève at San Francisco Ballet. There he worked his way up to principal dancer in three years, performing solo roles in works by Maurice Béjart, George Balanchine, Eliot Feld, Jiřií Kylián, Jerome Robbins, and others.
He relocated to the American Ballet Theatre in 1985, at the invitation of Mikhail Baryshnikov, where he was promoted to soloist in 1987 and principal dancer in 1989. Bustamante played significant parts in all of the major classical ballets with this company, alongside stars such as Alexandra Ferri, Carla Fracci, and Yekaterina Maximova. He worked with choreographers such as Sir Kenneth McMillan, Antony Tudor, Agnes DeMille, Twyla Tharp, Martha Graham, Jerome Robbins, Karole Armitage, and Natalia Makarova, and appeared in works by Karole Armitage, George Balanchine, Twyla Tharp, Clark Tipet, and Antony Tudor. Bustamante has also performed as a guest soloist with the Balletto del Teatro alla Scala in Milan, the Scottish Ballet, the Opernballett der Deutschen Oper Berlin, and the Pacific Northwest Ballet. He toured America and Europe with Rudolf Nureyev’s ensemble in 1988, and ballerina Carla Fracci chose him to be her partner in Giselle in a series of Verona performances in 1990. He also appeared there in Derek Deane’s The Angels and the Peri, alongside Fracci.
Bustamante was appointed teacher at the San Francisco Ballet School in 1994, and he choreographed several pieces for the company in the years that followed. He became artistic director of the Ballet Teatro Colón in Buenos Aires four years later, and he directed the Ballet de Santiago de Chile from 2000 to 2003 when he also created successful original renditions of The Nutcracker and Le Corsaire. Bustamante returned to San Francisco Ballet in 2004, where he was a ballet master for five years before being appointed assistant to the artistic director in 2009 and is now the head of the artistic staff. Bustamante has staged a wide range of classical ballets as well as works by George Balanchine, William Forsythe, Hans van Manen, and Jerome Robbins, among others, with this company.