Goodbyes are emotional, and Helgi Tomasson’s exit after 37 years as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet was no exception. Friends, fans, and colleagues past and present from around the globe gathered for a gala dinner and performance in his honor at the War Memorial Opera House in April.
“He is a trailblazer who elevated the quality of dance and strict classical training—it’s a world renowned company now,” said event chairwoman Yurie Pascarella. In brief remarks, the famously reticent Tomasson, a native of Iceland who rose to fame dancing with the New York City Ballet and retired from the stage to lead and choreograph in San Francisco, humbly told the crowd, “Chance nothing, gain nothing—remember, that’s my motto.”
In fall, the English National Ballet’s Tamara Rojo steps into his shoes, but Tomasson knows that leaving the spotlight doesn’t erase history. “After the curtain came down, he told us, ‘You will always be a dancer,’” said corps de ballet member Elizabeth Mateer. “It was powerful.”
Photos by Drew Altizer Photography