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2021 Season - Leap of Faith

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Press Release:  https://www.sfballet.org/discover/press-center/press-releases/release/san-francisco-ballet-announces-2021-repertory-season-leap-of-faith/


Season includes world premieres by Cathy Marston (Mrs. Robinson), Mark Morris, Danielle Rowe, and Myles Thatcher; and the West Coast premiere of ABT co-commission The Seasons by Alexei Ratmansky

Balanchine works include A Midsummer Night’s Dream and evening-length Jewels

Helgi Tomasson’s Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet close the Season

SF Ballet announces new works festival to mark 90th Anniversary Season in 2023

San Francisco, CA, June 18, 2020–Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson announces programming for the 2021 Repertory Season, scheduled to open January 19 and run through June 27. The theme of the season is “Leap of Faith,” an invitation to the community amidst the uncertainty of the months ahead, and a commitment by the Company to present a complete season, whether it is offered in the War Memorial Opera House, online, or a combination of both. The seven-program season features four world premieres and one West Coast premiere over the first three programs between January 19 and February 22, followed by Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream March 5–14 and Jewels March 25–31, and closing with Helgi Tomasson’s Swan Lake May 28–June 6 and Romeo & Juliet June 18–27. A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Romeo & Juliet return after being curtailed last season due to the health pandemic. Commissions include new works by Bay Area choreographer Danielle Rowe, San Francisco Ballet Soloist Myles Thatcher, and Mark Morris, as well as two new works previously scheduled for the 2020 Season: Mrs. Robinson by Cathy Marston and American Ballet Theatre co-commission The Seasons by Alexei Ratmansky. The season also features the return of Dwight Rhoden’s LET’S BEGIN AT THE END, originally created for the Unbound festival in 2018, as well as Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer, Tomasson’s 7 for Eight, and David Dawson’s Anima Animus, among others.

“We connect, we partner, and we embrace; that is what ballet is all about,” says Artistic Director and Principal Choreographer Helgi Tomasson. “As we launch the 2021 Season during a tumultuous yet critical moment in our history, I am reminded that now more than ever, we need the beauty and healing power of art in our lives. The upcoming season features five premieres: newly commissioned works by Bay Area choreographers Danielle Rowe and our own soloist Myles Thatcher, Mark Morris, Mrs. Robinson by Cathy Marston, and the SF Ballet premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Seasons. I’m also bringing back Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream and Jewels, in addition to my own productions of Swan Lake and Romeo & Juliet. While it is a season requiring resiliency as we navigate our path forward, it is also a season of innovation and tradition that showcases the continued diversity, artistry, and excellence of our Company. I look forward to reconnecting with our audiences and community as we enter a new era.”

Executive Director Kelly Tweeddale stated: “With the immediate future of live performance and large gatherings still unclear, we want to be realistic and prudent. We are committed to moving forward with creating the 2021 Repertory Season for our dancers and audiences in the safest and most sensitive way possible. This means not only strict adherence to state and local health protocols, but also remaining flexible and responsive to the ongoing needs and concerns of our public. With scheduling considerations and knowing our return to the stage will be complex, we have planned seven programs January through June 2021 to allow agility in our evolving environment. Helgi and I are calling this our “Leap of Faith” season as we invite patrons to join us as we keep ballet viable in our community. Even though we don’t know today what the future holds, we ask our community to join us as we say ‘yes’ to supporting the arts, ‘yes’ to the future of the Ballet, and ‘yes’ to change and innovation.”

2023 New Works Festival

San Francisco Ballet has begun artistic planning for a new works festival in 2023 during its 90thanniversary season. The festival will further the spirit of innovation set in motion during the 2018 Unbound festival and will represent diverse voices in ballet. “SF Ballet’s 90th anniversary will be a fitting year to continue the momentum of celebrating diversity and innovation we saw during Unbound,” says Helgi Tomasson. “The Unbound festival showed us what is possible when choreographers are given full autonomy to push boundaries. Now, when our artform desperately needs hope and diverse voices, a festival like this is more crucial than ever. To me it is both important to work with choreographers who have a good understanding of the classical ballet vocabulary, and also thrilling to see how they can stretch and challenge those traditions in ways that we’ve never thought of before. What audiences can look forward to in 2023 is both discovering emerging choreographers and seeing works by those who are new to SF Ballet.”

Nutcracker 2020 and Special Events

San Francisco Ballet is awaiting further clarity from the City of San Francisco regarding health and safety guidelines for public performance venues, currently scheduled to be released later this summer. SF Ballet’s Nutcracker, annual Opening Night Gala, and other special events will be determined and announced to the public as more information becomes available.

Subscription and Single Tickets

Principal series subscribers in the 2020 Season can renew their subscription packages now. Three, five, and seven program subscription packages to SF Ballet’s 2021 Repertory Season range in price from $69 to $2,275 and go on sale to the public in early fall. Individual tickets for SF Ballet’s 2021 Repertory Season, starting at $29, will be available at a later date in fall 2020. Visit sfballet.org or call Ticket Services, Monday through Friday, 10 am to 4 pm at 415-865-2000.



Program 01, January 19–30

The historic 2021 Season opens with two mixed-repertory programs, which include three world premieres—by Danielle Rowe, Myles Thatcher, and Mark Morris—running in rotation. Opening January 19, Program 01 begins with a world premiere by Myles Thatcher. In 2015, Thatcher, who is now a Soloist in the Company, became the first corps de ballet member in at least three decades to choreograph a new work for SF Ballet’s subscription season. He’s since created four additional works for the Company, including Ghost in the Machine in 2017, for which he was deemed an “inventive young talent” (Dance Tabs).

SF Ballet will also present a world premiere by Danielle Rowe—her first Repertory Season commission for the Company—on Program 01. In 2019, Rowe created UnSaid for SF Ballet’s Opening Night Gala, after which it toured with the Company to the 2019 Ballet Sun Valley Festival in Idaho. Rowe has created many multimedia works—including Fury, a “concert experience” inspired by Mad Max: Fury Road—and ballets for film. She lives in San Francisco and is the former associate artistic director of SFDanceworks.

Program 01 closes with SF Ballet’s Choreographer in Residence Yuri Possokhov’s Swimmer, a smash hit at its premiere in 2015. Swimmer is set to music by SF Ballet Orchestra double bassist Shinji Eshima, who incorporates recorded songs by Tom Waits and others into his score. Inspired by John Cheever’s short story of the same name from 1964, Swimmer includes animated projections by Kate Duhamel, costumes by Mark Zappone, scenic design by Alexander V. Nichols, and lighting design by David Finn.

Program 02, January 21–31

Program 02 opens on January 21 with Helgi Tomasson’s 7 for Eight from 2004, an “exceptionally musical Bach essay” (San Francisco Chronicle) highlighting a series of solo and ensemble numbers for eight dancers and set to portions of keyboard concertos by the composer. 7 for Eight includes black-on-black costume designs by Sandra Woodall and lighting designs by David Finn. It was last seen at SF Ballet in the 2016 Season.

Program 02 continues with a world premiere by Mark Morris, “the most successful and influential choreographer alive, and indisputably the most musical” (The New York Times). The premiere is Morris’s first commission for the Company since 2012, and the eighth ballet he has created for SF Ballet—more new works than he’s created for any other company.

Program 02 closes with David Dawson’s Anima Animus, the choreographer’s first commission for SF Ballet, created for the Unbound festival in 2018. Set to the music of Ezio Bosso, Anima Animus is, as Dawson puts it, “physically emotional virtuosity combined to make something human,” playing on Jungian concepts to reveal the rich contrasts between male and female psyches. Anima Animus toured with SF Ballet to Sadler’s Wells Theatre in 2019 and was “easily one of the highlights” (Seeing Dance) of the Company’s four-program London performances.

Program 03, February 16–21

Dwight Rhoden’s LET’S BEGIN AT THE END opens Program 03. Created for Unbound in 2018, LET’S BEGIN AT THE END is set to music by Bach, Philip Glass, and Michael Nyman and was hailed for its “off-kilter moves, spinning promenades in arabesque and consistent drive” (Bachtrack) at its premiere. Rhoden is co-artistic director of Complexions Contemporary Ballet; LET’S BEGIN AT THE END is his first work created for SF Ballet.

Program 03 continues with the world premiere of Cathy Marston’s Mrs. Robinson, inspired by the 1960s American novella and film The Graduate and re-told from the perspective of Mrs. Robinson, one of America’s most notorious seductresses. Terry Davies creates an original score for the ballet, with scenic and costume designs created by Patrick Kinmonth and lighting designs by Jim French. Mrs. Robinson is Marston’s second commission for the Company; her first, Snowblind, premiered during Unbound in 2018.

The West Coast premiere of Alexei Ratmansky’s The Seasons, a co-commission between SF Ballet and American Ballet Theatre, concludes Program 03. Like Mrs. Robinson, The Seasons was originally scheduled to premiere at SF Ballet in the 2020 Season. The Seasons uses the score of the same name by Alexander Glazunov and includes costumes by Robert Perdziola that give life to the ballet’s 14 characters, including Winter, Frost, The Rose, The Spirit of The Corn, Bacchus and Bacchantes. The Seasons is the ninth of Ratmansky’s ballets in SF Ballet’s repertory and is a reimagining of Maurice Petipa’s ballet from 1900.

Program 04, March 5–14

George Balanchine’s A Midsummer Night’s Dream returns on Friday, March 5 for Program 04. Balanchine’s full-length ballet received one performance in the 2020 Season before shelter-in-place orders went into effect.  Pairing a “seamless combination of acting and dancing” and “nail-biting” solos that result in “near-constant applause” (San Francisco Chronicle), the production features more than 100 roles in all, including 14 leading parts and a cast of 25 children. Midsummer’s woodland scenes and costumes are designed by Tony Award–winner Martin Pakledinaz, a longtime SF Ballet collaborator whose work can be seen in the Company’s productions of Nutcracker and Don Quixote, with lighting designed by Randall G. Chiarelli. Midsummer’s cast of fairies, mortals, bugs, and mismatched lovers is set to music by Felix Mendelssohn, and SF Ballet’s 10 performances will feature Volti, a San Francisco-based chorus, performing with the SF Ballet Orchestra throughout the run.

Program 05, March 25–31

George Balanchine’s plotless, evening-length ballet Jewels opens Program 05 on March 25, returning to the Company after a more than ten-year absence. Called “a perfect introduction to ballet” (The New York Times), Jewels is inspired by the artistry of jeweler Van Cleef & Arpels and includes three ballets: Emeralds, Rubies, and Diamonds, with costume designs by Karinska and lighting designs by Ronald Bates. Emeralds alludes to the 19th-century dances of French Romantics and is set to excerpts from Fauré’s Pelléas et Mélisande and Shylock. Rubies is a feat of athleticism, set to the modernist, American jazz-inspired Capriccio for Piano and Orchestra by Stravinsky. Diamonds invokes memories of Imperial Russia in a grand and formal display of classical ballet, set to Tchaikovsky’s Symphony No. 3 in D major.

Program 06, May 28–June 6

Called “a runaway box office hit” at its premiere in 2009, Helgi Tomasson’s Swan Lake opens Program 06 on May 28, with performances through June 6. The story of the white swan Odette and Prince Siegfried and their foils, the black swan Odile and Von Rothbart, is brought to life with set and costume designs by Tony Award–winner Jonathan Fensom; lighting by Jennifer Tipton; projection design by Sven Ortel; hair, wig, and makeup design by Michael Ward; and the timeless score by Tchaikovsky, playing out over a prologue and three acts. Swan Lake offers standout roles for the corps of 30 swans and Odette/Odile, with her surprising 32 fouettés in the third act. San Francisco Ballet presented America’s first full-length production of Swan Lake in 1940, and this production of Swan Lake is Tomasson’s second; the ballet is not only a classic of the repertory, but an integral part of San Francisco Ballet’s history. It was last seen in the 2017 Repertory Season.

Program 07, June 18–27

Helgi Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet closes the 2021 Repertory Season. Another signature work of the Company, Romeo & Juliet premiered during SF Ballet’s 1994 Repertory Season and is set to Sergei Prokofiev’s score. The full-length production features lighting design by Thomas R. Skelton and “opulent” (Los Angeles Times) Italian Renaissance designs by Jens-Jacob Worsaae. Included in Romeo & Juliet are the intricate and exhilarating sword-fighting scenes, which Martino Pistone choreographed in tandem with Tomasson. True to the era, characters fight with rapiers, daggers, and bucklers in tightly choreographed scenes requiring hours of rehearsal. Romeo & Juliet inaugurated Lincoln Center at the Movies: Great American Dance in 2015, when it was shown at cinemas nationwide. The ballet has been performed live at The John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts, the Bolshoi Theatre (balcony pas de deux), and Segerstrom Center for the Arts. SF Ballet most recently performed Romeo & Juliet on tour at The Royal Danish Opera House in Copenhagen, Denmark, October 30–November 2, 2019.


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Initial thoughts:

  • Only 7 programs instead of the usual 8.
  • Excited that most of the cancelled programs will be returning next year.  The only ones not coming back are Millepied's Appassionata & Possokhov's Classical Symphony - but his Swimmer makes a most welcome return in Program 1.
  • Interesting that all the full-lengths will be in the second half of the season.
  • Also, no performances in April and most of May.  Perhaps to rehearse the last two programs (Swan Lake & Romeo & Juliet)?
  • Although I am happy to see Swan Lake again, it has been years since we've seen Giselle.  It was last performed in 2015.
  • New works from Myles Thatcher, Danielle Rowe (her first, not including the gala pieces), and Mark Morris.
  • To celebrate the 90th Season in 2023, a New Works Festival.  Wonder how many new works there will be and which choreographers will be involved.
Edited by sf_herminator
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I'm super glad most of the cancelled programs are returning!  Wonder what the reasoning was for backloading all the full-lengths.  They seem to be the big sellers, maybe it's with the hope that we'll have a COVID vaccine by then, so the later performances are less likely to get cancelled?

Really really glad to see a new work by Danielle Rowe.  

sf_herminator, you bring up a good point about Giselle - I generally prefer SFB's Giselle to Swan Lake.  I didn't realize it had been so long since they've last performed it!  Hoping they bring Giselle back soon.

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I like that the season is extending into June and that Program 3 has three ballets that I am eager to see multiple times.  I just checked the SF Opera website and they have cancelled their fall season and have three productions from April 25 to May 2.  SFO usually performs in the fall up to Nutcracker and then puts on three operas in June.  

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11 hours ago, Josette said:

I like that the season is extending into June and that Program 3 has three ballets that I am eager to see multiple times.  I just checked the SF Opera website and they have cancelled their fall season and have three productions from April 25 to May 2.  SFO usually performs in the fall up to Nutcracker and then puts on three operas in June.  

I agree about Program 3, but it disappoints me that there will be no overlap with another mixed rep program. It's not feasible for me to hang around the Bay Area for 13 days to catch Midsummer as well. I would have to schedule multiple trips in rapid succession to SF and that's often not doable for me.

Personally, I'm not interested in seeing Swan Lake again. I'm guessing that's being done for the younger generation of dancers, to give them a chance to cut their teeth on an old classic. But I agree with others that Giselle would have been a better choice given the amount of time that has passed since it has been performed in SF.

It's interesting that the season is being spread out into June. I can see that SF Opera will be using the WMOH during the month of April and early May. But I'm not sure what the opera will be doing in June and July, of 2021.

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6 minutes ago, pherank said:

I agree about Program 3, but it disappoints me that there will be no overlap with another mixed rep program. It's not feasible for me to hang around the Bay Area for 13 days to catch Midsummer as well. I would have to schedule multiple trips in rapid succession to SF and that's often not doable for me.

I had the same disappointment. Their overlapping schedules are normally a big attraction for out-of-towners like me.  The new "normal," I guess.

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I think the big question now is, will there be a digital streaming package offered? Or are they going to continue worrying that it will cut into live performance seats sold? [Even though there's little evidence that watching videos keeps people from attending live performances.]
I for one will definitely make an effort to see some shows in person, but SFB better find a way to bring me the performances/programs I can't make it to. I need to be able to view performances digitally as well.

Same with NYCB, ABT, PNB, etc.

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From a logistics perspective, holding the full lengths until the end may be wise to allow the company members to better socially distance themselves until there is (cross those fingers) a vaccine. Full lengths mean the entire company (and towards the end, crew and orchestra) is hanging out constantly. 

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