Helgi Tomasson
Helgi Tomasson | Credit: Eric Tomasson

San Francisco Ballet is a company with long history in a still-young city. San Francisco was incorporated in 1850; Adolph Bolm’s SF Opera Ballet was born in 1933 — serving a little town on the Pacific Coast just one year after the opening of the War Memorial Opera House, its home ever since.

Willam, Harold, and Lew Christensen led what they renamed the SF Ballet in 1951, Lew heading the company until his death 33 years later, with Michael Smuin as co-director from 1973 on.

Helgi Tomasson arrived in 1985, and his 37th and final year as artistic director and principal choreographer in the coming 2022 season — when he will turn 79 — is the record even among all the company longevities. (It’s too late to correct this by now “universal” error, but Tómasson is a patronymic — son of Tómas — not a family name; reference should be by the given name Helgi ... but won’t be outside Iceland.)

Helgi Tomasson with "Unbound" choreographers
Among the high points of Tomasson’s leadership: “Unbound: A Festival of New Works.” Tomasson with 10 of the commissioned choreographers: David Dawson, Alonzo King, Christopher Wheeldon, Trey McIntyre, Cathy Marston, Annabelle Lopez Ochoa, Myles Thatcher, Arthur Pita, Justin Peck, and Edwaard Liang | Credit: Erik Tomasson

After the pandemic cut the 2020 season short in March and canceled the 2021 season, SF Ballet is hoping to have the December run of Nutcracker in the War Memorial, and then feature these Tomasson works in the 2022 season:

His world premiere Harmony; reprises of Trio, Caprice, The Fifth Season, Prism; and his full-length story ballets Don Quixote and Swan Lake. Tomasson says:

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-seven 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 an unquenchable curiosity for exploring new ways of moving

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.

Under Tomasson’s direction, SF Ballet performed to accolades in New York eight times between 1991 and 2013. In 1995, the company hosted 12 ballet companies from around the world for “UNited We Dance: An International Festival.” The festival commemorated the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter, which took place at the San Francisco War Memorial and Performing Arts Center.

Tomasson's "Fifth Season"
Tomasson’s Fifth Season is among this works to be reprised in 2022. |  Credit: Erik Tomasson

Among other highlights of SF Ballet’s 2022 season:

– World premiere of Mrs. Robinson by Cathy Marston
– World premieres by Dwight Rhoden and Christopher Wheeldon
– SF Ballet premieres of Blake Works I by William Forsythe and The Seasons by Alexei Ratmansky
– Reprises of George Balanchine’s Symphony in C, Jerome Robbins’s In The Night, and August Bournonville’s La Sylphide