San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson at the War Memorial Opera House

Erik Tomasson, Courtesy SFB

Helgi Tomasson to Step Down as Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet

This week, San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson announced that he will be leaving his post in 2022, after 37 years at the helm. Tomasson—a former dancer with Harkness Ballet, Joffrey Ballet and New York City Ballet—has led SFB since 1985, creating 50 works as its principal choreographer. During his tenure the company and school have grown in international prominence, boasting major dance stars, a robust and diverse repertoire, and ambitious events like 2018's successful Unbound: A Festival of New Works.


SFB's board will launch an international search committee for a new director in the coming months, aiming to transition leadership by June of 2022. Tomasson, 78, told The New York Times that he wanted to give the board sufficient time to conduct its search, especially since the COVID-19 pandemic will make the process more complicated.

In a statement, Tomasson pointed to the innovative ways the company has adapted to the coronavirus lockdown over the last 10 months, including the launch of its first digital season. "Despite or perhaps because of the year we all lived through together, the company has never been stronger than it is today," he said. "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."

In the meantime, Tomasson said he would focus on safely returning SFB to live onstage performances and help foster and support diversity initiatives within the company and its school. He will also continue planning the 2022 season and the 2023 new-works festival. But first, he has another task at hand: On January 14, the company opens its 2021 digital season with a virtual gala, with excerpts of upcoming premieres by Cathy Marston, Danielle Rowe, Myles Thatcher and a new work Tomasson is creating for his farewell season.


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