About Tomasson’s The Fifth Season
Tomasson’s The Fifth Season is part of Starry Nights: SF Ballet’s Return to the Stage at Stanford’s Frost Amphitheater on August 13 & 14, 2021. It is also part of SF Ballet’s 2022 Season. It will be performed in Program 05 from April 02–16, 2022.
Give a choreographer music he has never heard and often inspiration follows. That’s what happened in 2005 when Artistic Director & Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson discovered the music of Karl Jenkins. He heard Jenkins’ Palladio and immediately wanted more. And when he listened to Jenkins’ String Quartet No. 2, he knew he had found the score for the new ballet he would make for the 2006 Repertory Season, The Fifth Season. “I felt it was contemporary to today, and it’s romantic,” Tomasson says. “Even though it’s in the minimalist genre, there’s a swell of melodic feeling underneath.”
Welsh composer Karl Jenkins entered the professional music scene as a jazz musician, but his career defies categorization. He has composed for the advertising industry and a feature film, along with for orchestras and festivals. In 2005 he was named an OBE (Officer of the Most Excellent Order of the British Empire) for his services to British music. His music isn’t often used in ballet— another reason it appealed to Tomasson.
The Fifth Season takes its title from the first movement of Jenkins’ five-part String Quartet No. 2; the phrase intrigued Tomasson, who thought it suggested something beyond the ordinary. “It’s not the fifth season as in the four seasons. It said something else to me, opened up other ideas,” he says.
With movements that are musically diverse—from baroque-inspired to a percussive tango to an aggressive waltz, and beyond—String Quartet No. 2 gave Tomasson varied terrain in which to explore his ideas. Because he wanted the ballet to have six movements, he added the largo from Palladio for the adagio pas de deux, expanding the ballet’s range even more.
In his choreography, Tomasson makes the most of the music’s contrasting tones. The pulse of violins lightens the strong movements of the corps de ballet; the waltz is angular, then undulating, then suspended; the dancers alternately attack and melt into the tango’s sharp rhythms. And the pas de deux has “lovely, soft, lyrical qualities,” said Ashley Wheater (then a ballet master and Tomasson’s assistant and now artistic director of Joffrey Ballet) during the ballet’s creation. “Each section of the ballet is very different, and at first I thought they were extreme in their ideas. But you can really see how they link together.” Jenkins is often classified as a minimalist, yet Wheater described the music for The Fifth Season as having “a lot of soul.” And, he added, “Helgi picked up on that.”
by Cheryl A. Ossola
Header image: Mathilde Froustey and Daniel Deivison-Oliveira in Tomasson’s The Fifth Season // © Erik Tomasson