About Concerto Grosso
“That Incredible Joy, That High, You Can Get as a Dancer”
When you’ve got a company as full of talented men as San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson does, it’s only human to want to show them off. Tomasson does just that with the five men onstage in Concerto Grosso. The ballet often features dancers from the corps de ballet as well as principal dancers. “I created this work to showcase that there is a lot of talent in the ranks, not only the top people,” says Tomasson, “it reaches all the way back to the corps.”
Concerto Grosso comes by its structure musically; the fast, string-based orchestration of Francesco Geminiani’s variation on a Corelli theme seems to Tomasson to break naturally into a piece for five. “I tend, very often, to pull out the odd number because it’s more of a challenge choreographically,” he explains. “And where do you stop? Three was not enough, and seven was too many for that sort of music.” So five it was, headed by one featured principal role that does just about everything: big jumps, petite batterie, pirouettes. “I was thinking visually,” says Tomasson. “By posing each man differently in the opening, for me it meant individuality. Then they start walking, but they each have their own paths in their careers to walk; in so doing, maybe they all come together, but they have different ways of getting there.” In creating those different paths, Tomasson emphasizes each dancer’s unique qualities.
Those distinctions also resulted in movement that is simultaneously elegant, powerful, and playful. Tomasson believes that “male dancing can be powerful without being only jumping and turning. It can be moving slowly, poetically—those elements can be very strong.” He encouraged the small ensemble to fill the stage space with their movement. “Often I say to my dancers, ‘Make the stage feel a little bit too small.’ In this piece, I wanted a feeling of freedom of movement—that incredible joy, that high, you can get as a dancer.”
by Cheryl A. Ossola
Header Image: Lucas Erni in Tomasson’s Concerto Grosso // © Erik Tomasson