Helgi Tomasson To Tape Video For The George Balanchine Foundation
NEW YORK CITY – Helgi Tomasson, Artistic Director of San Francisco Ballet, will teach and coach on camera the male solo from George Balanchine’s Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée” (The Fairy’s Kiss). The taping will take place on April 21, 2003, at San Francisco Ballet’s Jewett Studio (ground floor) at 455 Franklin Street, San Francisco, CA.
Mr. Tomasson will work with Principal Dancer Gonzalo Garcia and will be interviewed about the ballet and its creation by writer Sheryl Flatow. Nancy Reynolds, Balanchine scholar and The Foundation’s director of research, who initiated the video series in 1994, will oversee the project.
Based on The Ice Maiden by Hans Christian Andersen, Le Baiser de la Fée, with music and book by Igor Stravinsky, was originally choreographed by Bronislava Nijinska in 1928. Balanchine’s version of the dramatic story of an artist marked by the muse’s fatal kiss was created in 1937 for the American Ballet and was later revived by the Ballet Russe de Monte Carlo and New York City Ballet. In 1972, for his world famous Stravinsky Festival, Balanchine returned to parts of the music, but he abandoned the story line, in effect choreographing its essence. One of the most magical (and musically complex) parts of the reconceived ballet, retitled Divertimento from “Le Baiser de la Fée,” was the male solo. Writing in The New York Times, Anna Kisselgoff noted, “Balanchine has reserved the most inventive sequence for Tomasson. The man’s variation, with its unexpected changes of direction, suggestions of swoons, and a series of jumps followed by falls to the knee, appears totally original.” With this variation, Balanchine applied the kind of articulation he usually lavished on his choreography for women to a man.
In I Remember Balanchine, Tomasson recalls that the entire variation was created in less than an hour and a half. “It was a fantastic solo….To me it meant that he had given me a gift.” Reflecting on his extensive interaction with Balanchine, Tomasson observes, “To work with such a genius you knew you were living a special moment. He taught me how to dance – about expanding movement, pushing for the extra, seeing the music through his choreography.”
Founded in 1933 by brothers Lew, William and Harold Christensen, San Francisco Ballet is America’s first professional ballet company. With its current sixty-nine member roster, the company is one of the three largest ballet companies in the United States. Under the direction of Helgi Tomasson since 1985, the Company presents more than one hundred performances annually, both locally and internationally, and has achieved an international reputation as one of the preeminent American ballet companies. In addition to his own choreographic work, Tomasson has created a sophisticated, diverse international repertory by commissioning new works by some of today’s most sought after choreographers as well as acquiring existing significant works and introducing new interpretations of classic full-length productions.
The tape of Mr. Tomasson coaching will become part of The George Balanchine Foundation Video Archives, housed at the Jerome Robbins Dance Collection of the New York Public Library for the Performing Arts, New York City. Copies are made available for on-site viewing to research libraries and accredited repositories worldwide.
Editor’s note: Photography available upon request.
HELGI TOMASSON was born in Reykjavik, Iceland, where he began his early ballet training at the National Theatre’s affiliated school. At the age of fifteen he studied with the celebrated Pantomime Theatre in Copenhagen’s Tivoli Gardens. Two years later, Jerome Robbins met Tomasson and arranged a scholarship for him to study at the School of American Ballet in New York City. Soon after, Tomasson began his professional career with The Joffrey Ballet and two years later joined The Harkness Ballet. In 1969, Tomasson entered the First International Ballet Competition in Moscow as a United States representative and returned with the Silver Medal. The following year, Tomasson joined New York City Ballet as a principal dancer and over the course of his career became one of the finest classical dancers of his era. Both George Balanchine and Jerome Robbins created several ballets with major roles for Tomasson, notably Balanchine’s Symphony in Three Movements, Vienna Waltzes, and Coppélia, in addition to Baiser, and Robbins’s Dybbuk and The Goldberg Variations.
While a dancer at New York City Ballet, Tomasson choreographed his first ballet in 1980 for the School of American Ballet Workshop. In 1985 Tomasson accepted the invitation from San Francisco Ballet to become artistic director. Since assuming this role with the Company, Tomasson has choreographed over 30 ballets, including full-length productions of Giselle, Swan Lake, The Sleeping Beauty, and Romeo & Juliet. His intricate and varied works, such as Handel - a Celebration, Meistens Mozart, Nanna’s Lied, Sonata, Prism, Bartok Divertimento and Chi-Lin showcase the unique qualities of individual dancers. For the 2003 Opening Night Gala, Tomasson created Concerto Grosso, and for the 2003 Repertory Season he will co-stage the full-length classic Don Quixote with San Francisco Ballet Principal Dancer Yuri Possokhov.
The strong classical base instilled at San Francisco Ballet by Tomasson has inspired guest choreographers such as William Forsythe, James Kudelka and Mark Morris to create new works on the Company. Tomasson has also continued to expand San Francisco Ballet’s repertory by licensing works by renowned choreographers such as Frederick Ashton, George Balanchine, August Bournonville, Jerome Robbins, and Antony Tudor. Tomasson’s own works have been performed by other companies such as New York City Ballet, Royal Danish Ballet, Houston Ballet, Alberta Ballet, Asami Maki Ballet and Teatro Colon’s Ballet Estable. In 1995 Tomasson conceived “UNited We Dance: An International Festival,” which was produced to celebrate the 50th anniversary of the signing of the United Nations Charter. For this unprecedented two-week dance event Tomasson invited 12 international companies of the highest caliber to present new works created by native choreographers. Under Tomasson’s direction, San Francisco Ballet has toured the world, receiving critical praise for its quality and technical brilliance.
Tomasson’s achievements have garnered him many significant awards and honors, and he has participated as a judge for ballet competitions in Italy, Moscow, Helsinki, and Japan. In addition to his role as artistic director of the Company, Tomasson is the director of San Francisco Ballet School.
Under Tomasson’s leadership, San Francisco Ballet has evolved from a respected regional troupe to an international company praised for its broad repertory, dancers of uncommon range and skill, and a vision that continually sets the standard for the international dance world.
GONZALO GARCIA was born in Zaragoza, Spain where he began his dance education at Estudio de Danza de Maria Avila. His training continued at the San Francisco Ballet School and he was accepted into the corps of the Company in 1998. Garcia was promoted to soloist in 2000, and became a principal dancer in 2002. The many ballets that he has performed significant roles in include: Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet, The Sleeping Beauty, The Nutcracker, Prism, Handel – a Celebration, Tuning Game, Criss-Cross, Silver Ladders and Le Quattro Stagioni, Polonaise Défilé; Balanchine’s Prodigal Son, Symphony in C, Tarantella, Theme and Variations and Rubies; Robbins’s Glass Pieces, Fanfare and Dances at a Gathering; Nureyev/Petipa’s Raymonda, Act III; Stowell’s Opus 50; Lubovitch’s Othello; Forsythe’s The Vertigious Thrill of Exactitude; Morris’s A Garden and Sandpaper Ballet; L. Christensen’s Con Amore; MacMillan’s The Invitation, Duato’s Without Words, and Wheeldon’s Coninuum. Garcia’s performances with other companies have included creating the principal role in Tomasson’s “Much Ado…” for Alberta Ballet. His many awards and dance scholarships include being the youngest dancer to ever receive a Gold Medal at the Prix de Lausanne in 1995, the First Place Award at the Concours de Lucienne Lamballe de Bayona in France in 1995, a Lew Christensen Scholarship in 1997, and the Princess Grace Award in 2000.
SHERYL FLATOW is a freelance writer, curator and moderator, specializing in the performing arts. She is currently working on an exhibit entitled “George Balanchine: Ballet Master” for the San Francisco Performing Arts Library & Museum (SFPALM), which will open on January 22, 2004, the 100th anniversary of Balanchine’s birth. From 1992 – 2002, Ms. Flatow wrote the program notes for San Francisco Ballet, and in 1998 she wrote the souvenir book marking the company’s 65th anniversary. Between 1986 and 1991 she wrote a monthly article on New York City Ballet for Playbill during the company’s New York State Theater performance season. She has also written for Parade, The New York Times, Performing Arts, Dance Magazine, Biography, Ballet News, Stagebill and many other national publications. Since 1998 she has been a guest curator at SFPALM, where her exhibits have included “With a Song in His Heart: A Celebration of Richard Rogers;” “Stephen Sondheim: The Art of Making Art,” and “George Gershwin, A Centennial Celebration.” Under the auspices of SFPALM, she has also curated small exhibits for American Conservatory Theatre (ongoing), San Francisco Ballet, San Francisco Symphony, and the Yerba Buena Center for the Arts (Paul Taylor). Additionally, she has conducted many public ‘conversations’ at SFPALM with such theatre and dance artists as Helgi Tomasson, Natalia Makarova, Kevin McKenzie, Judith Jamison, Christopher Bruce, Joanna Berman, Patti LuPone, Barbara Cook, Betty Buckley, and Maureen McGovern. She has also moderated panel discussions at San Francisco Ballet.
NANCY REYNOLDS, a former dancer with New York City Ballet, is the author of several books and many articles on dance. Since becoming director of research for The George Balanchine Foundation in 1994, she has collaborated on video projects with such legends in the field as Maria Tallchief, Dame Alicia Markova, Frederick Franklin, Alicia Alonso, and Suzanne Farrell, among others. Currently, with co-author Malcolm McCormick, she is completing a history of theatrical dance in the 20th century, to be published by Yale University Press.