San Francisco Ballet Just Announced an Epic 2018 Season

January 23, 2017

Top ballet companies have earned a reputation for being a bit safe and predictable in their programming in recent years. Which may be why San Francisco Ballet’s 2018 lineup is making bunheads’ jaws drop.

Artistic director Helgi Tomasson just announced a New Works festival that will include 12—yes, 12!—world premieres by a range of today’s “most inspired” classical and contemporary ballet choreographers. The works will debut over a series of four programs from April 20 to May 6, 2018.

This raises the stakes even higher than SFB’s 2008 New Works Festival, which celebrated the company’s 75th anniversary with 10 new works by 10 choreographers.

“To ensure that ballet…continues to evolve, we need to support and showcase choreographers who display ingenuity, passion for the art form, and fresh thinking—and who are willing to take risks,” Tomasson said in a press release. “This festival will offer audiences a rare and unique opportunity to see where the work of some the most exciting choreographers of our time is headed… I think the future of ballet looks very bright.”

So who are those choreographers he chose?

Alonzo King:
 Despite being artistic director/choreographer of the beautifully noodle-y LINES Ballet, San Francisco’s beloved contemporary ballet troupe, this will be the first time King’s creating a piece on SFB’s dancers.

David Dawson:
 The Forsythe disciple and associate artist at Dutch National Ballet is beloved in Europe, but rarely seen in the U.S.

Christopher Wheeldon:
 The much-heralded contemporary ballet choreographer and director of Broadway’s An American in Paris has a long history at SFB. The nine ballets he’s created there include his full-length Cinderella.

Stanton Welch:
 Artistic director of Houston Ballet since in 2003, Welch was previously resident choreographer at The Australian Ballet. His more than 20 works for Houston Ballet include full-length story ballets ranging from Romeo and Juliet to Marie (inspired by the life of Marie Antoinette).

Edwaard Liang
: This former New York City Ballet dancer took over as artistic director at BalletMet in 2013, and has since been bringing that company into the spotlight.

Cathy Marston:
 Formerly an associate artist at The Royal Opera House, Marston is known for her historical and literature-based works, bringing a contemporary perspective to old narratives.

Dwight Rhoden:
 The man behind the wow-worthy whiplash choreography of Complexions Contemporary Ballet, Rhoden has created work for over a dozen American ballet companies, plus TV and theater, including So You Think You Can Dance and Cirque du Soleil’s Zumanity.

Annabelle Lopez Ochoa:
 This Colombian-Belgian choreographer is on a serious roll, creating new work everywhere from NYCB to English National Ballet to Danza Contemporanéa de Cuba just last year.

Arthur Pita:
 This London-based dance theater choreographer takes on intriguingly odd projects, from a solo based on Kafka’s Metamorphosis to the sci-fi film Ex Machina.

Yuri Possokhov:
 SFB’s choreographer in residence since 2006 (and former SFB principal), Possokhov has created 16 ballets on the company, and also gained accolades for his ballets at the Bolshoi Ballet and other troupes.

Trey McIntyre:
 Since shutting down the Trey McIntyre Project in 2014, this contemporary choreographer has experimented in film, writing and photography, but hasn’t stopped choreographing fun, irresistible ballets to pop music.

Justin Peck:
 Companies around the world already have ballets by this 29-year-old whiz kid of NYCB—and he still performs as a soloist.


This is an exciting gamble for SFB. Five of those 12 choreographers (Ochoa, King, Marston, Rhoden and Dawson) have never created on the company’s dancers before. Only two of them are women, but to SFB’s credit that is a larger number than many ballet companies can claim. Though we can’t help wishing Tomasson had nabbed one or two local female talents, like Amy Seiwert or Julia Adam.

We haven’t seen any info on where the funding is coming from to underwrite such a massive festival of premieres. But SFB has a reputation for being a company where choreographers create some of their best work, so the excitement over the lineup is justifiably high.

One thing is for sure: The SFB dancers have some seriously awesome work ahead of them next year.


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