SF Ballet Artist Director Helgi Tomasson announces 2022 departure

San Francisco Ballet, SF Ballet, Helgi Tomasson

SF Ballet Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. Courtesy: Erik Tomasson/SF Ballet.

After nearly four decades as artistic director and principal choreographer of the San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson today announced that he will be concluding his tenure by mid-2022.

Tomasson will continue to actively lead the company in its current digital season, begin programming the 2022 season featuring highlights from his tenure, and will then be involved during a transition to SF Ballet’s next artistic director, the company said in a news release. His next major duty will be to plan for a safe return to in-person performances, alongside the company’s board of trustees and other leadership. Tomasson will also continue to plan SF Ballet’s 2023 new works festival.

The SF Ballet board, meanwhile, will form a committee to undertake an international search for Tomasson’s successor in the coming months. The transition of leadership is anticipated to conclude by June 2022.

“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,” Tomasson said in a news release. “Over the past 10 months, we had to innovate and completely re-conceive 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. 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.”

Helgi Tomasson joined SF Ballet in 1985 and is one of the most heralded artistic visionaries in modern ballet today. He has choreographed more than 50 ballets, , including full-length productions of “Swan Lake,” “The Sleeping Beauty,” “Romeo & Juliet,” “Giselle” and “Nutcracker.” Under his leadership the company became one of the most recognized in the world.

Tomasson danced with Harkness Ballet, The Joffrey Ballet and New York City Ballet. As an artistic director, Tomasson has balanced devotion to the classics with an emphasis on new works, often collaborating with choreographers like William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Trey McIntyre, Cathy Marston and Mark Morris.

He has also co-commissioned works with the American Ballet Theatre, The Royal Ballet and Dutch National Ballet; and taken SF Ballet on tours to Paris, London, New York, China and his native Iceland. In 2020, he was nominated to receive 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.

“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-chairwoman of the SF Ballet Board.

Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale, who joined the company in late 2019, said that working with Tomasson was one of the perks of the job.

“What became immediately clear was his reach throughout the international world of ballet and his connection with keeping the company in the creative mode,” she said. “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.”

— Roman Gokhman

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