Press Releases

January 4, 2010

America's Oldest Professional Ballet Company Honors Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's 25th Anniversary With a Special Gala

SAN FRANCISCO, Monday, January 4, 2010—On January 20, 2010 San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson will be honored at the Ballet’s Opening Night Gala, Silver Celebration, on the occasion of his 25 years as artistic director of SF Ballet, the oldest professional ballet company in America.

Tomasson—a native of Reykjavik, Iceland—was discovered by master choreographer Jerome Robbins and began his illustrious performance career with The Joffrey Ballet and other companies. As a principal dancer at New York City Ballet, he was considered one of the finest classical dancers of his era. In 1985, Tomasson became artistic director of SF Ballet, and under his artistic leadership the Company has grown into a world-class ballet company, known for its diverse repertory and dancers of incredible range and skill. The New York Times has called Tomasson’s tenure “one of the spectacular success stories of the arts in America” and The Sunday Times (UK) noted, “Tomasson’s outstanding artistic direction…has transformed a regional American dance troupe into one of the world’s top ballet companies.”

In addition to a steadfast commitment to touring, both nationally and internationally, Tomasson has cultivated a vast and diverse body of repertory, including numerous new works. Over the past 25 years, more than 100 world premiere works have been presented by SF Ballet, and in 2008, as part of the Company’s 75th anniversary, Tomasson oversaw the New Works Festival of 10 world premieres by 10 diverse and renowned choreographers. A choreographer himself, Tomasson has created over 40 works for the Company and in 2008, his acclaimed production of Nutcracker was broadcast nationally on Great Performances on PBS, in partnership with KQED Public Television in San Francisco.

Among his numerous and prestigious awards, Tomasson was granted the rank of Officier in the French Order of Arts and Letters in 2001, and has been bestowed honorary degrees by institutions including New York’s Juilliard School. In 2005, Tomasson received SF Ballet’s highest honor, the prestigious Lew Christensen Medal, in honor of his 20th anniversary as artistic director. In 2007, President of Iceland Olafur Ragnar Grimsson awarded Tomasson the Grand Cross Star of the Order of the Falcon, the country’s highest honor. Under his leadership, the Company won its first Laurence Olivier Award in 2005; three years later, SF Ballet received the Jerome Robbins Award for excellence in dance.

2010 Opening Night Gala: Silver Celebration
SF Ballet’s Opening Night Gala, Silver Celebration, on January 20, 2010, will honor Tomasson’s 25 years of artistic leadership. The event includes cocktails and four dinners in City Hall, as well as a special, one-night only performance by the Company at the historic War Memorial Opera House. The performance will include excerpts from a number of Tomasson’s acclaimed works, and the evening will culminate with a post-performance party at City Hall. For more details, visit

Anniversary Exhibition
In conjunction with Tomasson’s 25th anniversary, Photographer Erik Tomasson also celebrates five years of photographing SF Ballet. His work—which has been published locally, nationally, and internationally—unfailingly captures the incredible breadth and diversity of the Company’s repertory, from classical and neoclassical, to contemporary works. From January 12–March 6, a selection of Tomasson’s images will be on display at the Museum of Performance & Design. Following the exhibition, limited-edition prints will be available for sale. In addition, on January 12, an exhibition opening will be held as part of the ENCORE! 2010 Season Kick-off Event. For more information, visit or

2010 Repertory Season
San Francisco Ballet’s 2010 Repertory Season runs from January 23–May 9, 2010. For more information, visit

Images for Download
To download images of SF Ballet Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson, visit

San Francisco Ballet
As America’s oldest professional ballet company and one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States, San Francisco Ballet has enjoyed a long and rich tradition of artistic “firsts” since its founding in 1933. It performed the first American productions of Swan Lake and Nutcracker, as well as the first production of Coppélia choreographed by an American choreographer. Guided in its early years by American dance pioneers and brothers Lew, Willam, and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet currently presents more than 100 performances a year locally, nationally, and abroad. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson for 25 years, the Company has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent ballet companies in the world. 2010 marks the 25th anniversary of Helgi Tomasson’s artistic directorship of the Company.

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