San Francisco Ballet’s longtime artistic director and principal choreographer Helgi Tomasson announced that he will be stepping down from the posts in mid-2022, following plans to continue to foster new works and return the troupe safely to live performances in the wake of pandemic restrictions.
“The unprecedented challenges we faced as individuals and as a community during 2020 only served to reconfirm for me the power of dance as a form of artistic expression, connection and humanity. Over the past 10 months, we had to innovate and completely reconceive how to bring dance to our audiences, since they could not come to us. Looking to the 2022 season, my aim is to build on these achievements and to bring the company back to the stage for live performances,” Tomasson said in a news release issued Wednesday.
“Despite or perhaps because of the year we all lived through together, the company has never been stronger than it is today. As we look ahead into the new year, the timing felt right to begin a transition to a new artistic director, who will build on this legacy and lead the company into its next chapter.”
As the ballet begins its first digital season, Tomasson will continue to lead the troupe and work with the Board of Trustees and other company leaders to ensure a smooth transition. A committee will embark on an international search for Tomasson’s successor.
Since becoming director of San Francisco Ballet in 1985, Tomasson – a venerated classical dancer with Harkness Ballet, the Joffrey Ballet and New York City Ballet — has choreographed over 50 ballets and championed new work, including 2018 Unbound Festival. During his tenure, the company has been recognized among the world’s best, and also has developed an internationally acclaimed school.
“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.
Despite the cancellation of the 2020 season due to the pandemic, 2020 saw the creation of new work, including 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 also led the reconceptualization of the rapidly approaching 2021 season for a digital platform, with premieres by Cathy Marston, Danielle Rowe and Myles Thatcher conceived for film; story ballets including George Balanchine’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” which had only one performance before 2020’s city-wide shut down; and his own works, “Romeo & Juliet” and “Swan Lake.”
The troupe’s first virtual gala and performance, on Jan. 14, include excerpts of world premieres and from a new work Tomasson is creating for 2022.