After being at the helm at one of the United State’s most prominent ballet companies for almost four decades, Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson will depart San Francisco Ballet.
He announced that he will be ending his tenure as Artistic Director as well as Principal Choreographer by the middle of 2022. Tomasson will remain active for his remaining time with the company, continuing to actively lead and work with the Board of Trustees and Ballet leadership to help implement a multi-phased plan ensuring the smooth transition to the next Artistic Director.
Tomasson will begin programming the Company’s 2022 season featuring highlights from his tenure as well as newly choreographed works. Over the coming months, he will be prioritizing the Company’s safe return to in-person performances and will continue to work in collaboration with the Board and Ballet leadership to support the ongoing development of initiatives that foster diversity within the Company, School, and the constituents they serve. He additionally will continue planning for the 2023 new works festival.
A committee will be formed in order to implement an international search for San Francisco Ballet’s next Artistic Director, expected to be finalized by June 2022.
Helgi Tomasson has been heralded for balancing an embrace of classical ballet with a drive for innovation and artistic creativity.
“Helgi is a visionary whose creativity, brilliance, and stewardship of the Ballet is reflected both in the caliber of the Company’s work, as well as in the thoughtful transition plan that he helped conceive to support the organization’s ongoing vitality,” said Sunnie Evers, Co-Chair of the SF Ballet Board. Added Co-Chair Robert G. Shaw, “The San Francisco Ballet has played an integral role in the cultural landscape of its hometown and the dance world more broadly for nearly 90 years, and Helgi’s steadfast leadership has served to deepen these roots and extend these connections exponentially. His enduring commitment to supporting new talent, ideas, and the dancers themselves has made the Company the most vibrant it has ever been.”
Since becoming Artistic Director of SF Ballet in 1985, Tomasson has been heralded for balancing an embrace of classical ballet with a drive for innovation and artistic creativity. Tomasson has choreographed over 50 ballets, mounted and commissioned new work, and conceptualized several acclaimed festivals providing platforms for overlooked and emerging talent, including the heralded 2018 Unbound Festival. Under Tomasson’s leadership, SF Ballet achieved recognition as one the most preeminent companies in the world and developed an internationally acclaimed school, cultivating the next generation of ballet dancers.
Following the curtailment of the season in March 2020 due to the pandemic, Tomasson, Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale, and the SF Ballet Board placed priority not only on keeping the artistic team whole, but also on finding ways to safely bring the Company and upper levels of SF Ballet School back to the studios. The organization also deepened its diversity and inclusion efforts, including developing an IDEA Committee on its Board and an Inclusion Advisory Group to represent various employee groups, in conjunction with staffing its HR department and bringing in a respected expert specializing in the cultural and organizational integration of diversity and inclusion. With the perspective of these groups and voices representing all parts of the organization, SF Ballet has been setting priorities and strategies for advancing IDEA initiatives, including diversifying artistic talent, staff, and programming, and building a pipeline of young BIPOC dancers through the Ballet School.
Under Tomasson’s direction, 2020 saw the creation of new work, including the premier of a six-minute outdoor film Dance of Dreams directed by Benjamin Millepied and choreographed by Justin Peck, Dwight Rhoden, Janie Taylor and Christopher Wheeldon. Tomasson additionally led the reconceptualization of the entire 2021 Season to meet the demand of a digital-only platform, with world premieres planned by Cathy Marston, Danielle Rowe, and Myles Thatcher conceived for film; three story ballets including George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream, which had only one performance before the city-wide shut down; Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet and Tomasson’s Swan Lake with enhanced content; and Balanchine’s Jewels with a newly filmed version of Emeralds. SF Ballet will celebrate the Company’s achievements in its first Virtual Gala and Performance on January 14, 2021, including excerpts of these world premieres and from a new work that Tomasson is creating for 2022. Tomasson’s impact and legacy will be honored during the 2022 Gala.
Added Tweeddale, “San Francisco Ballet’s mission is to share a joy of dance with the widest possible audience, both locally and around the world, and to provide the highest caliber of dance training. I joined SF Ballet fifteen months ago with the opportunity to work with Helgi and the incredible legacy he has built. What became immediately clear was his reach throughout the international world of ballet and his connection with keeping the Company in the creative mode. It is an honor to be able to continue to work with Helgi to steward the Company forward and build upon his unparalleled artistic achievements.”