2021 San Francisco ARTS MEDALLION: Helgi Tomasson, Honoree
Bravo! Jim and Cecilia Herbert, Honorary Co-Chairs! Bravo! Pattie Lawton and Ken Fulk, Event Co-Chairs and the Honorary Committee and Event Committee.
Bravo! to the Museum of Performance & Design and to the San Francisco Ballet.
Thursday, October 21, 2021 celebrated a very special event to honor Helgi Tomasson.
Held at the Saint Joseph’s Art Society, 1401 Howard Street, San Francisco, formerly a church, the building is now an amazing center for many presentations of art; books, sculpture, window painting, sources of design and art production that invoked curiosity for exploration and support. Many wondered how they could accomplish that.
A menu of drinks and food was served, all sponsored by Saint Joseph’s Arts Society. The mixed drinks, made to order, were called by ballet names: “Ballet Russe”, “Milano Torino”, “Miss Paloma”. Each used ingredients unique to its region. Servers passed wonderful “ hors d’oeuvres” from caviar to pizza. The guests, from the dance community and the patron community, were all delighted, impressed and lively.
My guest commented that part of the evening’s success was its intimacy. We sat on sofas, moved freely around the room and listened to the SF orchestra play chamber music.It was easy and pleasant to meet one another. I was able to speak with two young people who will join the Ballet next year; one who studied in Russia, the other from Sweden.
The three performances by members of the San Francisco were delightful, impressive and skillful.
First on the program was a ‘pas de deux’ danced by Yuan Yuan Tan and Tiit Helmuts from “7 for Eight” (2004), to music by Bach. Audiences of the SF Ballet have seen these two brilliant performers in many events, but close up and on a small stage they were even more remarkable for their technique and responsiveness.
Next, another ‘pas de deux’ with Sarah Van Patten and Luke Ingham, from “THE FIFTH SEASON” (2006), music by Karl Jenkins. Two people dance, yet each event is different in energy, interpretation and interaction.
Third on the program, “CONCERTO ‘GROSSO” (2003), score by Geminiani after Corelli, featuring an outstanding group of men dancers: Esteban Hernandez, Cavan Conley, Diego Cruz, Benjamin Freemantle, and Wei Wang. How they managed all the superb leaps, jumps and turns on that small stage (about one-quarter of that at the Opera House) is amazing. Their skill and energy were unbelievable; we were all moved and impressed by their achievements. Bravo! to all the dancers … and to …
The SF Ballet Orchestra who played during the social hour and accompanied the performances. Maestro Martin West, Music Director and Principal Conductor led the twelve members of the orchestra accompanying each of the dance events. Again, superb performances.
All three dance works were choreographed by Helgi Tomasson.
Jim Herbert, Co-chair of the event, then paid tribute to Tomasson’s many years of leadership (1985-2022). He noted the more than 50 works Tomasson has choreographed and his sponsorship of the 2008 New Works Festival and the 2018 Unbound: A Festival of New Works. Also noted: his “Nutcracker” adaptation was taped for PBS’s Great Performances. Herbert also noted Tomasson’s works commissioned by other companies, SF Ballet’s world tours … and more. Tomasson then spoke quietly, stating that “dancers are such nice people” and he “loved them all.” He graciously accepted the tributes and acknowledged his pleasure with the SF Ballet company and its many sponsors.
The program noted that Tomasson joins a distinguished group of past Gold Medallion Honorees among whom most recently was Michael Tilson Thomas (2019). Tomasson apparently is the first honoree from the SF Ballet.
The evening continued with delightful socialization, drinking and snacking. The gossip was, of course, who would succeed Tomasson as director. Names were whispered and projected. So far though, there has been no new appointment announcement.
Congratulations to all artists, participants, helpers and sponsors.
It was an evening to remember! We look forward to the SF Ballet’s 2022 season.
Joanna G. Harris