After leading the San Francisco Ballet for more than 35 years, Helgi Tomasson announced on Wednesday that will he step down as artistic director and principal choreographer in 2022. “The company is in a very strong position right now, the dancers are dancing beautifully, and I thought maybe this is the right time do it,” Mr. Tomasson said in an interview. “The other thing was that my wife and I would like to spend more time with our family,” he added.
Mr. Tomasson, 78, chose to share his departure plans in advance to give the company’s board sufficient time to find a suitable replacement, a task made more difficult by the pandemic. “Things take longer than they did during quote-unquote normal times when people could fly out and you could interview them or whatever,” he said.
“Helgi is a visionary whose creativity, brilliance and stewardship of the Ballet is reflected both in the caliber of the company’s work, as well as in the thoughtful transition plan that he helped conceive to support the organization’s ongoing vitality,” Sunnie Evers, the co-chair of the San Francisco Ballet board, said in a statement.
Mr. Tomasson plans to guide the company through its digital 2021 season and help it get back onstage in 2022, conditions permitting. The coming season, which begins with a virtual gala performance on Jan. 14, will include world premieres from the choreographers Cathy Marston, Danielle Rowe and Myles Thatcher, all of which were created to be filmed and streamed. In 2022, the programing will focus on work created and staged during Mr. Tomasson’s tenure. It will also feature a new work by Mr. Tomasson set to a keyboard suite by Jean-Philippe Rameau.
Though giving up his role as the company’s artistic leader, Mr. Tomasson will likely oversee the new works festival he has begun to plan for 2023, a follow-up to the “Unbound” festival he organized in 2018 to highlight rising choreographers.
Before joining San Francisco Ballet as artistic director in 1985, Mr. Tomasson danced with Joffrey Ballet, Harkness Ballet and New York City Ballet. As a principal dancer at City Ballet, where he worked with George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins, Mr. Tomasson was celebrated for his precise technique and elegant style. “In Helgi Tomasson, the New York City Ballet has one of the best classical male dancers in the world today,” Anna Kisselgoff wrote in The New York Times in 1974.