Northward-bound … for San Francisco Ballet ‘NEXT@90’ anniversary celeb

War Memorial Opera House interior, photo robert canfield

I’m heading north — to attend a friend’s birthday party. That is, San Francisco Ballet, the oldest extant classical-ballet company in our nation. Established in 1933 by Adolf Bolm, and developed artistically and institutionally by three ballet brothers, Willam, Lew and Harold Christensen, the SFB staged the first full-length American productions of Coppélia (1938) and Swan Lake (1940). (The company has a simple but compelling timeline devoted to its history here.)

San Francisco Ballet has a long track record of keeping one pointe shoe in traditional ballet-classicism and kicking another into the future. This is not your 90-year-old ballet-grandpa; it’s an oldster/newster that still has legs. It is in keeping with the company culture and mission that, in marking its 90th, it has commissioned a festival of nine new works.

The company is on the cusp of a changing of the guard at the San Francisco War Memorial Opera House. A new director Tamara Rojo is in the on-ramp to the fast lane overseeing this prestigious American ballet company’s artistic affairs. Ms. Rojo was selected following the announcement of the imminent retirement of Helgi Tómasson, who has been at the company’s helm since 1985. The choreographers vetted for inclusion in Next@90 provide the audience with an opportunity to engage with artists reflective of Mr. Tómasson’s sensibility and taste.

This weekend, I’ll be viewing six of the nine new works, over the course of two of Next@90’s three programs. I am, alas, missing works by Robert Garland, Jamar Roberts, and Danielle Rowe. I’ll write more about what captures me after the weekend.

Program “C”

Program “B”

photos: Lindsay Thomas for San Francisco Ballet

Next@90 | San Francisco Ballet | War Memorial Opera House

In 2023, Los Angeles arts journalist Debra Levine celebrates 15 years of arts●meme, the fine-arts blog she founded in 2008.

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