Your Ultimate Guide to Program 6

Your Ultimate Guide to Program 6

The Beauty and Power of Creation

What Is It? A mixed bill that showcases the power of mentorship and providing a space for exploration and creation. Influenced by George Balanchine during his time at New York City Ballet, Helgi Tomasson has transformed SF Ballet into a fertile creative space where renowned choreographers such as Christopher Wheeldon and Dwight Rhoden collaborate with the Company to create new works that move ballet forward.

Who’s It For? Lovers of bravura dancing, experience junkies, and those who seek the transformational power of performance.


San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Prism // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? A neoclassical ballet created in 2000 for New York City Ballet’s Diamond Project. Tomasson danced with NYCB for 15 years, under the mentorship of George Balanchine. The influence of both Balanchine and Jerome Robbins can be seen in this three-movement work—in the formations of the corps de ballet and the jazzy male solo in the final section.

What Am I Hearing? Ludwig van Beethoven’s Piano Concerto No. 1. Originally written in the early 1790s, Beethoven revised the concerto in 1798, after he had been exposed to the music of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart. Do you hear a difference between the first two movements and the finale?

What Should I Look For? As its name suggests, Prism is full of formations, symmetries, echoes, and strong diagonal lines. It shifts seamlessly between pas de deux, pas de trois, and a full ensemble. Notice how Tomasson uses the corps de ballet differently in each movement, building upon these formations to create different moods.


San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Finale Finale // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? Choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s twelfth world premiere at SF Ballet and a tribute to Tomasson, who has consistently commissioned Wheeldon’s work since 2000. Filled with nonstop movement, it is also a celebration of returning to performing after two long years of lockdown.

What Am I Hearing? Twentieth-century French composer Darius Milhaud’s Le Bœuf sur le toit (The Ox on the Roof). Composed after Milhaud returned from two years in Brazil, it draws upon the instrumentation and popular tuns of the country, especially the song “O Boi no Telhado,” which gives it its name.

What Should I Look For? Wheeldon has played into the cartoonish, tongue-in-cheek feeling of the music, as well as its South American influence. Look for how he has tweaked classical ballet positions to make them cheekier and fun. While the ballet is abstract, without defined characters, can you spot the Chaplinesque solo?


Frances Chung and Angelo Greco in Rhoden’s The Promised Land // © Erik Tomasson

What Am I Seeing? Dwight Rhoden’s third new work at SF Ballet, following 2018’s LET’S BEGIN AT THE END and a section of 2020’s Dance of Dreams. Although he was inspired by the events and experiences of the past few years, The Promised Land is not about the pandemic, but about our ability to adapt, recover, and persevere.

What Am I Hearing? A unique texture of music, pulled from works by composers Philip Glass, Luke Howard, Kirill Richter, Hans Zimmer, and Peter Gregson. “It’s a playlist of many different things,” explains Rhoden. “There are a lot of different temperatures [in the ballet], and I didn’t find it all in one piece of music from one composer.

What Should I Look For? Rhoden’s distinctive choreographic style, filled with contrasting and counter rhythms, off-center movements, and layered steps. There are a range of textures, with the piece juxtaposing chaotic moments with serene, pensive ones.

Program 6 was performed from April 6–15, 2022.

Header Image: Isabella DeVivo and Benjamin Freemantle in Wheeldon’s Finale Finale // © Erik Tomasson