Helgi Tomasson: A Celebration

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.

Kay Mazzo, Helgi Tomasson, Marlene Tomasson, and Albert Bellas
Yurie Pascarella, John Neumeier, Yuan Yuan Tan, Carl Pascarella, and Dede Wilsey
Benjamin Freemantle, Sunnie Evers, and Tom Horn

“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.”

Stanton Welch, Virginia Long, and Mikko Nissinen
Decor by J. Riccardo Benavides for a feast by McCalls Catering & Events

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.”

Mary Miner, Ashley Wheater, and Elvira Jacobus
SunMin Lee, Diego Cruz, and Dores André
Pascal Molat, Sarah van Patten, and Yuri Possokhov

Photos by Drew Altizer Photography