In April, San Francisco Ballet will present three world premieres: Harmony by Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, Finale Finale by Christopher Wheeldon and The Promised Land by Dwight Rhoden. Emerging from the dual pandemic of Covid-19 and racial reckoning in the United States, and celebrating Helgi Tomasson’s long career, these works continue SF Ballet’s tradition of cultivating new work and perspectives.
They also mark Tomasson’s last firsts at SF Ballet, before his retirement at the end of the season after a solid career with the Company. In 37 seasons, he has created more than 50 works for SF Ballet and has commissioned nearly 200 ballets from emerging and established choreographers since taking over as director in 1985.
“Over the years, I have aspired to develop a company of dancers who see themselves as part of the creative process, as collaborative partners in the creation of new work,” explains Tomasson. “My new ballet, Harmony, was born out of the pandemic and the joy the Company felt to be able to dance together again. I was thrilled to invite Dwight Rhoden and Christopher Wheeldon to our studios. They created ballets that spark moments of reflection and hope for a better future.”
Beginning April 2, Program 5 includes the world premiere of Tomasson’s Harmony, on a keyboard suite by Jean-Philippe Rameau. This joyful ballet celebrates the return of live performance for both artists and audiences. Tomasson’s creative process for the piece began in the summer of 2021 when the Company’s dancers were rehearsing in “pods” during the Covid-19 pandemic. Working with a group of 12 dancers, Tomasson created Harmony to showcase each dancer’s strengths, a hallmark of his approach to choreography.
Program 5 also includes Magrittomania by choreographer in residence Yuri Possokhov, a nod to the work of surrealist artist Réné Magritte, and The Fifth Season by Tomasson, created in 2006, set to music by Karl Jenkins and considered the one of his finest ballets.
Opening April 6, Program 6 features the world premieres of Christopher Wheeldon’s Finale Finale, a tribute to Tomasson’s final season, and Dwight Rhoden’s The Promised Land.
The Promised Land explores the continued emergence of society after the Covid-19 pandemic and racial reckoning in the United States “I wanted to access the resilience and perseverance of the human spirit, physically, mentally, emotionally and spiritually “, Rhoden said of his creation. “The essence of the piece is how we recover, what we do to get through it, how we deal with day-to-day challenges.” Set to music by a collection of composers including Philip Glass and Hans Zimmer, The Promised Land is an abstract piece involving what Rhoden calls a “wandering narrative”. The Promised Land is Rhoden’s third ballet created for SF Ballet, following LET’S BEGIN AT THE END, created in 2018’s Unbound: A Festival of New Works, and his contributions to the dance film Dance of Dreams in 2020. Rhoden is co- founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet with Desmond Richardson.
Finale Finale is Wheeldon’s 11th work on SF Ballet and captures the festive spirit of his Darius Milhaud score, Le Boeuf sur le toi. “Creating for San Francisco Ballet has always been an amazing experience for me, very joyful, very collaborative,” Wheeldon said. “I owe a lot to Helgi in so many ways: my development as a choreographer, having the opportunity to be here in a city I love, working in this great theatre, with this great company.” Intended as incidental music for a Charlie Chaplin film, Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le Toit evolved into a ballet libretto by Jean Cocteau, created in 1920. While Wheeldon abandoned Cocteau’s libretto, it retains a solo “Chaplin -esque” and acrobatic elements in his new ballet. Wheeldon won two Tony Awards in 2015 for directing and choreographing Broadway’s An American in Paris. His first creation for the SF Ballet, Sea Pictures, premiered in 2000.
Program 6 also includes Prism by Tomasson, created for the New York City Ballet in 2000, danced to a score by Beethoven.
Tickets for Programs 5 and 6 start at $29 and can be purchased online at sfballet.org or by calling 415-865-2000, Monday through Friday, 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Pacific Time. Casting will be announced soon at https://www.sfballet.org/season/casting.