San Francisco Ballet Celebrates Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s 37th and Final Season in 2022
San Francisco Ballet returns to the War Memorial Opera House for live performances of seven programs February 1—May 8 with select digital offerings on SF Ballet @ Home
Farewell season entitled “Celebrating Helgi Tomasson” includes the world premiere of his new work Harmony, revivals of story ballets Don Quixote and Swan Lake, as well as Trio, The Fifth Season, Caprice, and Prism
Three additional world premieres include Mrs. Robinson by Cathy Marston, and new works by Christopher Wheeldon and Dwight Rhoden
Two SF Ballet premieres include Blake Works I by William Forsythe and The Seasons by Alexei Ratmansky
SF Ballet’s 2022 Season Opening Night Gala will be presented on January 27
San Francisco Ballet (SF Ballet) announces Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson’s farewell season in 2022, celebrating Tomasson’s remarkable 37-year tenure leading the Company. The Season comprises seven programs that reflect the expansive unfolding of Tomasson’s career as a dancer and choreographer, encompassing works by luminaries in the field and repertory from Tomasson’s own canon. It celebrates his legacy of making SF Ballet a creative hub for many emerging choreographers and transforming the organization into a globally renowned ballet company. “From my very first days in San Francisco, my goal has been to build a ballet company that draws from the past while looking forward. Thirty-six years later, I’m proud that San Francisco Ballet’s distinctiveness derives from this duality: a brilliant ability to bring the classics to life as well as a curiosity for exploring new works,” says Tomasson. “I am excited for the Company in its next chapter, as the arrival of a new artistic director will usher in new artistic opportunities to continue in the spirit of innovation and exploration. In planning my final season with San Francisco Ballet, I reflected upon the many artists and works that have inspired me throughout my career, while honoring commitments to works that were planned pre-pandemic and haven’t yet taken the SF Ballet stage. I designed a final season that offers a heartfelt look back at the artistry of my almost four decades here—a love letter to this company and our community.”
Highlights of the 2022 celebratory season, to be performed live at the War Memorial Opera House (WMOH), include the world premiere of Tomasson’s Harmony, a work choreographed during the pandemic and Tomasson’s 46th work on SF Ballet; Mrs. Robinson by Cathy Marston, and new works by Christopher Wheeldon and Dwight Rhoden. Helgi Tomasson’s works to be revived on the 2022 Season include Trio, Caprice, Don Quixote, The Fifth Season, Prism, and Swan Lake. Blake Works I by William Forsythe and The Seasons by Alexei Ratmansky will have their SF Ballet premieres. Additional works on the 2022 Season include Symphony in C by George Balanchine, In The Night by Jerome Robbins, La Sylphide by August Bournonville, and Magrittomania by Yuri Possokhov.
“Helgi has planned a seven-program season to ensure we have the ability to adjust our performances should additional protocols be necessary. The repertory has been chosen to assure the maximum ability to rehearse, produce, and perform as we re-open,” says Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale. “We have a lot to celebrate in 2022: the commitment of our entire community to get us this far, the ability to keep our artists in the creative mode during the darkest of times, the almost four decades–long tenure of Helgi Tomasson in his final celebratory season with San Francisco Ballet, and being reunited with our audiences, without whom we could not exist.”
SAFE RETURN TO THE OPERA HOUSE
San Francisco Ballet has been working with its entire workforce in the past year to maintain an aggressive testing protocol for artists and support staff in order to avoid the transmission of the COVID-19 virus or its variants at the workplace. Protocols around seating audiences in the War Memorial Opera House for the 2022 Season will depend on the presence of the virus within the community, and may include the need for proper social distancing, preventative masking guidelines, and proof of vaccination or a negative COVID test as may be required by public health order protocols currently in development.
During the pandemic, SF Ballet, SF Opera, and the City of San Francisco accelerated the replacement of seats in the Orchestra, Dress Circle, and Grand Tier areas of the WMOH, and the project is almost complete. In addition to updated seating and better sightlines, the ventilation and air handling systems have been tested and upgraded to comply with CDC protocols put in place during the pandemic.
CELEBRATING HELGI TOMASSON
Since Helgi Tomasson’s arrival in 1985, San Francisco Ballet has evolved from a respected regional troupe to an international company praised for its wide-ranging repertory, dancers of remarkable range and skill, and artistic vision. As a choreographer, teacher, and coach, Tomasson has fostered an uncompromising classicism that has become the bedrock of the Company’s repertory and training. He balances this devotion to the classics with an emphasis on new work, commissioning ballets from choreographers William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Mark Morris, Cathy Marston, Liam Scarlett, and Justin Peck, among others. Tomasson has expanded SF Ballet’s repertory, acquiring works by choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Michel Fokine, Hans van Manen, Wayne McGregor, Sir Kenneth McMillan, Agnes de Mille, Nacho Duato, Flemming Flindt, Roland Petit, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor. He has also cultivated choreographic talent within the Company, including Yuri Possokhov and Val Caniparoli, both of whom have since created works around the globe. Tomasson’s own works have been performed by New York City Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Houston Ballet, Atlanta Ballet, Alberta Ballet, Les Grands Ballets Canadiens de Montréal, Ballet Estable del Teatro Colón, and Asami Maki Ballet.
Helgi Tomasson has choreographed more than 50 ballets since becoming Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer of San Francisco Ballet, of which 46 were created on the Company. His repertory includes full-length productions of Don Quixote (co-staged by Yuri Possokhov), Giselle, Romeo & Juliet (taped for Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance), The Sleeping Beauty, Nutcracker (taped for PBS’ Great Performances), and two productions of Swan Lake (1988 and 2009). His repertory ballets, such as 7 for Eight, Chi-Lin, Concerto Grosso, The Fifth Season, Handel—a Celebration, Meistens Mozart, Nanna’s Lied, and Sonata, showcase the unique qualities of individual dancers.
Helgi Tomasson has conceptualized several unprecedented festivals for San Francisco Ballet, starting with UNited We Dance: An International Festival, held in San Francisco in May 1995 to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter, and for which Tomasson invited 12 international companies to present new works created by choreographers from their country. In spring 2008, as part of its yearlong 75th anniversary celebration, SF Ballet presented a New Works Festival of 10 world premieres by 10 acclaimed choreographers from stylistically diverse backgrounds. Ten years later in spring 2018, Tomasson presented Unbound: A Festival of New Works featuring 12 world premieres by 12 international choreographers, several of whom created their first works for the Company.
Tomasson has also connected San Francisco Ballet with the world, with major co-commissions with American Ballet Theatre (Lar Lubovitch’s Othello, Alexei Ratmansky’s Shostakovich Trilogy and The Seasons), The Royal Ballet (Liam Scarlett’s Frankenstein), and Dutch National Ballet (Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella©). Under Tomasson’s direction, SF Ballet has toured the world, performing in China (2009, 2015), Copenhagen (1998, 2010, 2019), London (1999, 2001, 2004, 2012, 2019), Moscow (2012), New York City (1991, 1993, 1995, 1998, 2002, 2006, 2008, 2013, 2018), and Paris (1989, 1994, 2001, 2005, 2014).
Tomasson’s achievements have garnered him numerous awards and honors. In his native Iceland, he was given the Grand Cross Star of the Order of the Falcon, the country’s most prestigious honor. Tomasson was also granted the rank of Officier in the French Order of Arts and Letters in May 2001. He has received three Isadora Duncan Awards (1989, 1996, 2007), a Dance Magazine Award (1992), a Dance/USA Honor (2012), and the Lew Christensen Medal (2005). He has been presented with honorary doctorates from Dominican College of San Rafael (1996) and the Juilliard School (2002). In 2020, Tomasson received the San Francisco Arts Medallion, created by the Museum of Performance + Design to recognize those individuals whose leadership, action, and generosity have benefited the cultural life of the San Francisco Bay Area.
Tomasson is also artistic director of San Francisco Ballet School, alongside School Director Patrick Armand. For Tomasson, the School is central to the life and development of the Company, and its alumni make up more than 70 percent of the Company at San Francisco Ballet in the upcoming season.
Born in Reykjavik, Iceland, Tomasson began his early ballet training there with an Icelandic teacher and joined the National Theatre’s affiliated school, led by Danish instructors Erik and Lisa Bidsted. He began his professional career at age 15 with the celebrated Pantomime Theatre in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Two years later, Jerome Robbins met Tomasson and, impressed by his dancing, arranged a scholarship for him to study at the School of American Ballet in New York City. Soon after, Tomasson began his professional career with The Joffrey Ballet and two years later joined The Harkness Ballet. Over the next six years, he became one of the company’s most celebrated principal dancers.
In 1969, Tomasson entered the First International Ballet Competition in Moscow as a United States representative and returned with the Silver Medal (the Gold Medal was awarded to Mikhail Baryshnikov). The following year, Tomasson joined New York City Ballet as a principal dancer, distinguishing himself as a dancer of technical purity, musicality, and intelligence. He was one of the foremost interpreters of George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, and both men created roles in new ballets for Tomasson. Balanchine encouraged him to choreograph and, in 1982, Tomasson choreographed his first ballet for the School of American Ballet Workshop.
A celebratory event to honor Helgi Tomasson is scheduled for April 24, 2022. More details including dinner and performance tickets will be available in early 2022.
San Francisco Ballet plans for an in-person Nutcracker at the War Memorial Opera House in December 2021. Tickets for Nutcracker will go on sale to the general public once artist and audience protocols for December are set.
2022 SEASON OPENING NIGHT GALA
San Francisco Ballet will present its 89th Season Opening Night Gala on Thursday, January 27, 2022. The annual black-tie launch of the repertory season includes a pre-performance cocktail hour and dinner hosted by the SF Ballet Auxiliary at San Francisco City Hall and a performance by San Francisco Ballet at the War Memorial Opera House. More details will be announced in fall 2021.
SUBSCRIPTION AND SINGLE TICKETS
Principal series subscribers in the 2021 Season can renew their subscription packages starting May 12. Three, five, and seven program subscription packages to SF Ballet’s 2022 Repertory Season range in price from $66 to $2,555 and go on sale to the public later this summer. Individual tickets for SF Ballet’s 2022 Repertory Season, starting at $29, will be available at a later date in fall 2021. Visit sfba