Skip to main content

Jo Tomalin

Jo Tomalin
Dance & Theatre

Dimanche at Edinburgh International Festival 2023

By Jo Tomalin

Climate change is around us and two award-winning companies from Belgium have chosen to show and tell us their take with their inimitable wit, on this topic. The two companies are Focus Company and Chaliwaté Company and they create performances based the theatre genres of puppetry, video, mime and clowning. The former, Focus Company works with miniature objects and puppetry and Chaliwaté Company focuses on the body and gestures.They present their show Dimanche as part of this year’s Edinburgh International Festival.

Therefore, their artistic expression and sense of humour will reflect all of these art forms in some way while dealing with an important topic. Climate change is no laughing matter but these companies are optimistic that humans will turn it around. A creative way to bring attention to some of the current effects of climate change is through the power of theatre and enacting situations – in their own idiosyncratic way!

Written, Directed & Performed by Julie Tenret, Sicaire Durieux and Sandrine Heyraud, Dimanche is the French word for Sunday, a family day, when friends get together and have more time to reflect on what’s happening around them. Through a series of creative scenes, some linked throughout these three performers play several characters, manipulate props and objects, including an outstanding sequence of puppetry with a large fish!

Not wanting to give away spoilers, because much of the impact of this show comes from the element of surprise and exaggerated literal and imaginative visual expression, here are some hints! A brilliant global warming scene shows what happens when a family needs relief from the heat and things get way out of hand reflects on a sadly realistic situation and then turns into full on humour. 

Projecting video above the actors is an effective way to change location and add dimension to the terrain. Then back to the mysterious lighting of the stage we are suddenly transported under water accompanied by a huge fish puppet with very realistic movement and panache from the puppeteers.

Dimanche is a show that builds and continues to entertain and surprise through the never ending imagination and quirky creativity of this collaboration of these two companies. Highly Recommended!

More Information:

Café Müller – Choreographed by Pina Bausch in Paris!

By Jo Tomalin

Théâtre de la Ville presented Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain performing Café Müller at La Villette, Paris July 6-12, 2023. Choreographed by Pina Bausch in 1978 this piece was produced by Théâtre de la Ville in 1985 and 1992, with the late Pina Bausch performing in it regularly. Under the new artistic direction of Boris Charmatz since last year, Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch presents Café Müller in a stand alone forty-five minute performance with three different casts each night.

A revolving door is centre stage through which customers arrive and leave. The wide stage space of Café Müller is strewn with almost fifty chairs and small round tables where sparse customers move around and into these objects – save for an agile man who moves them out of the way of a woman who apparently does not see them. This act is at once endearing and selfless – but there is more.

Café Müller has been called a psychodrama as scenes among the cast of six intermingle sporadically. Two women in ethereal pale silky dresses stay on stage the entire time and others come and go. A duet enacts repetitive dramatic moments between a woman falling on the floor out of the arms of a man, suggesting a rise and fall in a relationship.

The idea for Café Müller came out of the childhood memories of Bausch herself when her parents owned a Café and she spent time in the evenings observing the customers as they jostle between the sadness of reality and hope.

The choreography and mise en scène by Bausch includes breathtakingly fluid movement, sudden bursts of music and emotive dance, the visual of a woman slowly sliding down a wall to the floor, a person arrives and totters about not understanding the situation yet she seems to grow to accept it.

Set to music by Henry Purcell this piece is beautifully poignant and impactful.

Set and costume design by Rolf Borzik of black walls, chairs and tables with plexiglass, and the elegant evening dress work together to create a mysterious moody environment for the cast of six superlative performers as they discover themselves and form relationships.

Having seen this piece performed by this company many years ago as part of an evening performance, this stand alone forty-five minutes is extraordinary for the emotional impact. Highly recommended!

More Information:

Palermo Palermo by Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch at Montpellier Danse Festival

By Jo Tomalin

The 43rd festival of Montpellier Danse in France and Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz presented Palermo Palermo /REPRISE/ on June 29, 30 and July 1, 2023 in Le Corum, Montpellier. Choreographed by Pina Bausch in 1989, this is the second piece of the series she created after visiting several countries and expressing her observations in dance theatre through her company of international dancers.

Palermo Palermo is immediately impactful when a huge wall of bricks wavers and falls backwards, then dancers emerge wearing high heels and dresses or fur coats walking across the broken bricks. Prescient in this image is the fact that the Berlin Wall fell a few months after her creation. Pina Bausch works are singular in their glorious construction, choreography, use of space, theatrical dance with movement and the Tanztheater Wuppertal company of outstanding dance theatre performers who also create characters with no or minimal words – sublimely.

Bausch created her works in collaboration with superb designers: Peter Pabst for stunning scenography and beautiful costume design by Marion Cito. Musical collaboration by Matthias Burkert is at the forefront in Palermo Palermo which includes a range from Grieg, Paganini, traditional music from Sicily, Southern Italy, Africa, Japan, Scotland – to music from the Renaissance and American blues and jazz.

This three hour piece with intermission is a feast for fans of Pina Bausch choreography and creative work and a bold introduction to new audiences. The Montpellier Danse festival has made an inspired choice to invite this company, whose ground breaking work needs to be seen in the world canon of choreography.

An international cast of twenty five dancers comprising several original Tanztheater Wuppertal company members who worked with Bausch before her death in 2009 are joined by recent cast members. They all create images and emotive sequences with verve and commitment. Character quirks and poignant expressive physical commentary unfold to reveal themselves with dramatic scenes and irony – then move on to a change of pace with ensemble dances that are fluid and abstract yet involve specific individuality, that are so visceral and moving.

Flashes of ideas and observations expressed by Bausch from her research in Palermo include gunshots, church bells and cocktails! Relationships are explored such as when a couple breathe on each other then perform a beautiful angular and flowing duet, so delicate and sensitive.

Long time (and now ex) company member Nazareth Panadero is an invited guest at this performance run. She is notable for her bold and fascinating character portrayals both physical and verbal. In one of her scenes in Palermo Palermo a male character irons her dress while she is wearing it and then she is taunted by another male character – her reactions evoke the possibilities of male and female relationships and attitudes at the time. Panadero also performs a brief and demonstrative scene about spaghetti, it’s absolutely wonderful!

Tanztheater Wuppertal Pina Bausch + Terrain Boris Charmatz have produced a superb provocative and highly creative production that is memorable – and an experience that would be greatly welcomed again at Montpellier Danse, in the future!

More Information:

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin

San Francisco Ballet: Romeo & Juliet

By Jo Tomalin

Jasmine Jimison and Ricardo Bustamante in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet // © Lindsay Thomas

Romeo & Juliet opened its run on April 21, 2023, produced by San Francisco Ballet at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House. Set to music by Sergei Prokofiev conducted by Martin West and choreographed by Helgi Tomasson.

The romantic story is dramatic and moving. Scenery and costume design by Jens-Jacob Worsaae work together with the lyrical choreography to transport us. Visually the large sets with a bridge are impactful and skilfully used in the mise en scene. Costumes are of rich textures and earth tones that evoke a time gone by very effectively, together with lighting design by Thomas R. Skelton.

Tomasson’s choreography is beautiful in the duets and all ensemble sequences. In fact the ballroom scene is breathtaking when all dancers move forward at once in a show of grace and strength, it’s a powerful image not to be forgotten.

Jasmine Jimison and Angelo Greco in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet // © Lindsay Thomas

Jasmine Jimison is a beautiful Juliet in every way – it is her story – and we are transfixed to her scenes when she is at the ball, meets Romeo, stridently negates her parents wishes of a suitor – and then entangles herself in the tragic events. Jimison is youthful and authentic with muscular precision, joy, freedom and sadness. Partnered with Angelo Greco as her Romeo they are well matched with visceral movement and lovely interactions.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Romeo & Juliet // © Lindsay Thomas

A formidable cast play parents and friends of the star struck couple, led by Ricardo Bustamante and Jennifer Stahl as Lord and Lady Capulet, Luke Ingham as Tybalt, Rubén Cítores Nieto and Katita Waldo as Lord and Lady Montague, Max Cauthorn as Benvolio and Anita Paciotti as Juliet’s Nurse.

Sword fights take centre stage in this ballet between Montague and Capulet rivals – dynamically performed by Cauthorn and Ingham – and are some of the best I have seen in a ballet setting, with vibrant and dynamic fight scene choreography by Martino Pistone in collaboration with Helgi Tomasson.

This Romeo & Juliet is not to be missed!

More Information:

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin

SF Ballet’s Cinderella – Magical!

By Jo Tomalin

Misa Kuranaga in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Lindsay Thomas

San Francisco Ballet presents Christopher Wheeldon’s Cinderella©, set to Sergei Prokofiev’s score, March 31 to April 8, 2023 at San Francisco’s War Memorial Opera House, orchestra conducted by Martin west. This three act ballet is glorious in its visual storytelling, production design and of course, the fine tuned precision and flourish of the San Francisco Ballet.

The leading and character roles are played by a different cast at each performance and on opening night, March 31, 2023 Cinderella was danced by Misa Kuranaga. This role is strenuous in the amount of choreography and emoting the character does in her journey as an orphan to fulfil her dreams of going to the ball. We all know the story and what happens eventually, but Wheeldon took elements from several versions of the Cinderella story as told decades ago, and this Cinderella is fresh in the new ideas and imagery it brings.

Misa Kuranaga and Isaac Hernández in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Lindsay Thomas

Kuranaga is notable as Cinderella with lovely projection and sublime, fluid movement throughout all her solos, duets and when she joins other groups along the way. Throughout the entire ballet she sustains her light dance quality and goes through a range of emotions from sadness to pure joy and wonderment.

Jennifer Stahl as Hortensia, the stepmother is beautifully strange, usually accompanied by her two daughters, Cinderella’s stepsisters, danced by Elizabeth Powell and Ellen Rose Hummel, forming a deliciously quirky and powerful trio with choreography and angular movement to match.

Prince Guillaume danced by Isaac Hernandez is Cinderella’s romantic lead and works well with his childhood friend, Benjamin, danced by charismatic Esteban Hernández. Their sword interplay is mirrored in Act 1 when the boys were young children and then become grown up versions – this makes a connection and through line to focus on throughout the story timeline.

Tiit Helimets plays Cinderella’s Father partnered with Cinderella’s Mother, Kamryn Baldwin in some tender parental moments.

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Lindsay Thomas

A curious group of characters in dark blue and black waft in and out of each act adding an ethereal element to the storytelling. They are ‘helpers’ as in various genres of theatre and performance and interact with and around Cinderella and others somewhat like a Greek Chorus, moving the story forward and facilitating otherworldly action. These are the Fates, a dynamic group danced by Daniel Deivison-Oliveira, Steven Morse, Alexander Reneff-Olson, John-Paul Simoens. The Fates are a vital part of this witty reimagining of Cinderella – and they look like they are having too much fun!

San Francisco Ballet in Wheeldon’s Cinderella© // © Lindsay Thomas

Outstanding scenic and beautiful costume design by the renowned Julian Crouch is creativity personified. Stunning sets and transitions truly transport the audience into the magical nether world and back to reality with clever choices that work together perfectly with Wheeldon’s imagination and vision. Lighting design by Natasha Katz and Projection design by Daniel Brodie are all part of this magic together with Basil Twist for his show stopping tree and carriage sequence direction/design.

If you have not yet seen Wheeldon’s Cinderella, do so, it will take you away to where anything is possible!

More Information:

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance, Theatre & Physical Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin

William Kentridge’s Sibyl at Cal Performances

By Jo Tomalin

Cal Performances presents the US premiere of William Kentridge’s SIBYL, Friday–Sunday, March 17–19, 2023 in Zellerbach Hall.
(credit: Stella Olivier)

Cal Performances presents William Kentridge’s Sibyl March 17-19, 2023 at Zellerbach Hall, Berkeley. Kentridge is in residence at UC Berkeley for the 2022-23 academic year presenting a series of lectures, art exhibits, performances and films culminating with the US Premiere of his theatrical chamber opera, Sibyl, directed by Kentridge, who also led the concept and design supported by a substantial creative team. Music for the two-part program is composed and conceived by Nhlanhla Mahlangu and Kyle Shepherd, with piano played by Shepherd, during the performance.

The first piece The Moment Has Gone, is a twenty two minute film of Kentridge his studio in South Africa with several singer dancers on stage, accompanied by jazzy piano music. The piece is intriguing and moving and shows Kentridge’s multi disciplinary creativity as an artist and animator. The quality of the music, singing and magical effects of the film is sublime storytelling and a fascinating insight into Kentridge.

William Kentridge. Cal Performances presents the US premiere of William Kentridge’s SIBYL, Friday–Sunday, March 17–19, 2023 in Zellerbach Hall.
Pictured: William Kentridge
(credit: William Kentridge)

Sibyl is a story based on the myth about waiting for the Sibyl, to find out one’s destiny, expectations of life, death and hope for the future. There are several scenes in this forty four minute piece interspersed with a blackout. Each scene is visually and aurally abstract, creative and visceral. Expect the unexpected after the first image of a woman center stage, she is breathing visibly – she is waiting for the Sibyl, to know her destiny. A group of five performers are near, suggesting a form of a mythical chorus, they each wear curious, remarkable round flat hats, while another performer chants “the moment has gone”. It reminds me of something I can’t remember. We are transported!

Cal Performances presents the US premiere of William Kentridge’s SIBYL, Friday–Sunday, March 17–19, 2023 in Zellerbach Hall.
Pictured: S’busiso Shozi, vocalist
(credit: Stella Olivier)

This scene is followed by a veritable feast of Kentridge’s strident black ink art woven through a creative tapestry of images, animation, drama, wit, beauty, with Dadaist designs of sets, objects and costumes featuring lively and rich music and song. We are led through a creative mind and interpretation by Kentridge taking us to places we don’t recognize and up and down stairs, to an office where words come alive and out of a man’s head and a distinctive old school typewriter has its own sound and rhythm. Haunting melodic singing is punctuated by African click sounds.

In a vibrant scene colorful shapes – orange, yellow, red, white and blue appear, while there is singing with hyena like laughs. Delicious contraptions are everywhere – and a performer sits wearing a delicate circular pleated skirt very carefully arranged.

A highlight scene is a stage full of mismatched chairs, when we discover that they have a life of their own, it’s so witty and clever!

Beautifully staged by Kentridge and performed by the cast of nine singers and dancers, with Shepherd at the piano, Sibyl is pure movement, rhythm, art, dance, visual abstract theatrical storytelling, textured music and song. It is to be seen and experienced!

More Information and Tickets:

Cal Performances

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin  Arts & Travel Reviews

SF Ballet Vibrant Triple Bill: The Colors of Dance

By Jo Tomalin

San Francisco Ballet presents the stage Premiere of Myles Thatcher’s COLORFORMS, part of a triple bill program, March 14 – 19, 2023 at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco.

Previously presented as a World Premiere film version during SF Ballet’s 2021 Digital Season, the stage version debuted on March 14th and was very well received. Set to music by Steve Reich and choreographed by Myles Thatcher, an SF Ballet Soloist, the combination of Reich’s Variations for Vibes, Pianos, and Strings with Thatcher’s choreography results in a vibrant and joyous new ensemble piece to be added to the SF Ballet repertoire.

On opening night COLORFORMS featured Principal Dancers Sasha De Sola, Aaron Robinson, Misa Kuranaga, and Esteban Hernández; Soloists Jasmine Jimison, Isabella DeVivo, Steven Morse; Cavan Conley Maggie Weirich, and Davide Occhipinti, performing in a variety of small and large combinations with streamlined transitions of set and lighting.

The Scenic and Lighting Design of this piece by Jim French is architectural and beautiful as the set and lighting transforms the space from a seeming three rooms that become a stunning vast backdrop of neon colors and grids.

Susan Roemer’s Costume Design of a notable every day look including full skirts and dresses in varied colors and textures at the start of COLORFORMS and becomes form fitting as the piece evolves.

The theatrical set and look of this piece develops from the fast moving groups of young characters and random combinations as they playfully turn, move, enter and exit a three room space. Reich’s rhythmic music is unpredictable and exciting, especially when the ‘rooms’ melt away – into a new episode of shapes, forms, set, dancers and choreography!

COLORFORMS envelops a range of moods and emotions from dancers in their interactions between the characters and creative choreography, which is visceral, energetic and dynamic throughout the piece. This is certainly a piece to see again to appreciate all the elements that come together so well!

This triple bill program opens with Helgi Tomasson’s 7 FOR EIGHT and closes with William Forsythe’s BLAKE WORKS I.

7 FOR EIGHT is choreographed by Tomasson and is set to beautiful music by Bach : Keyboard Concerto No. 5, BWV 1056 (2nd & 3rd movements); Keyboard Concerto No. 4, BWV 1055 (1st and 2nd movements); Concerto for 4 Harpsichords, BWV 1065 (2nd movement) arranged for one harpsichord; Keyboard Concerto No. 1 BWV 1052 (2nd and 1st movements), conducted by Martin West with pianist Mungunchimeg Buriad.

The first duo with Yuan Yuan Tan and Aaron Robinson with intricate partnering, elegant lifts and Tan’s outstanding extensions sets the tone for the piece. Next, Norika Matsuyama and Cavan Conley perform a joyous and lively duo with freshness and verve. The following movements include floaty, gracious, and dramatic choreography with twirls of floor patterns and precise fast footwork in this elegantly restrained piece.

Dark costume design by Susan Roemer perfectly juxtaposes with the deep blue tones of the scenic and lighting design by Jim French.

Forsythe’s BLAKE WORKS I is set to music by James Blake and features a large ensemble of dancers performing in short episodes. The ethereal music with vocals in the first piece is fascinating when Sasha De Sola, Nikita Fogo and Jasmine Jamison lead out in I Need a Forest Fire. The intriguing score continues with trios, duos and ensemble choreography that is at once grounded, electrifying, sensual, balletic, vibrant, punctuated with fluid joy, unusual choreography with fascinating relationships among the dancers as the music becomes transporting to another time and place – it is all very compelling!

All elements of this piece work in unison to create a breathtaking experience for the audience. Beautifully staged by Ayman Harper with mid blue to dark costume design by Dorothee Merg and William Forsythe and moody atmospheric lighting design by Tanja Ruehl and William Forsythe.

Sasha De Sola and Max Cauthorn’s final duet, Forever, is breathtaking, tender and lovely!

More Information and Tickets:

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin  Arts & Travel Reviews

Little Willy: Ronnie Burkett’s Daisy Theatre Puppetry Show at Stanford Live!

By Jo Tomalin

Ronnie Burkett, world renowned award-winning Canadian puppeteer performs his Daisy Theatre show, Little Willy, produced by Stanford Live, March 1 – 4, 2023, at the Bing Studio, Palo Alto, California.

Known internationally for his original devised shows told through exquisite marionette puppets, Burkett is the ultimate storyteller and master puppeteer. He skillfully manipulates and voices his marionette characters with quick changes in vocal tone and pitch then brings life to the complex and beautifully carved and costumed characters – always sharing their individual quirks and foibles!

Burkett designs and creates the thirty or more intricate string puppets for every show he devises, performs and tours internationally. Other shows include Forget Me Not, Penny Plain, Billy Twinkle, 10 Days on Earth, Provenance, Happy, Street of Blood, and the arrestingly moving tour de force, Tinka’s New Dress.

Little Willy is a show that includes several characters from prior shows and this time they decide to perform their version of William Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet. Led by the transformative burlesque star Dolly Wiggler, characters such as the take charge actor Esme Massengill, have their sights on playing the young ingenue, Juliet.

Burkett’s shows are mainly for adult audiences because of their length and depth of storytelling and irreverent bawdy mayhem. Little Willy is an interactive fast paced show – that Burkett announces at the beginning, is improvised – therefore the two hour show with no intermission changes somewhat at each performance. Knowing his carefully crafted and thought out characters as well as he does, Burkett, in view of the audience, ad libs and acts through his puppets with a variety of fascinating observations, quips, double entendres, songs and lines from Shakespeare!

The vibrant excitement flow of the show also includes two particularly memorable characters for their immense heart and humility – Mrs Edna Rural who sits in her comfy armchair regaling us with upbeat stories about her friends in a moving monologue about her husband; and then there is Schnitzel, who will melt your heart!

Little Willy is a very entertaining, well-crafted, witty, humorous show, with Burkett’s brilliant puppetry and multi dimensional performance told through a unique story. Do not miss this show… it’s Highly Recommended!!!

More Information and Tickets:

Stanford Live

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin  Arts & Travel Reviews

San Francisco Ballet: Giselle

By Jo Tomalin

Sasha De Sola in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Lindsay Thomas

San Francisco Ballet presents Giselle at the War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco as part of their 2023 season led by Artistic Director, Tamara Rojo.

Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson after Marius Petipa, Jules Perrot, and Jean Coralli, Giselle runs from February 24th until March 5th.. Tomasson’s production is set to music by Adolphe Adam, with additional music, orchestrations, and arrangements by Friedrich Burgmüller, Ludwig Minkus, and Emil de Cou, conducted by Martin West.

On opening night, February 24th 2023, the cast featured principal dancers Sasha De Sola as Giselle, Aaron Robinson as Count Albrecht and Nikisha Fogo as Myrtha.

The story takes place in a beautiful bucolic setting surrounded by a gathering of friends where Giselle lives with her mother in a Rhineland village. When noblemen visit – an elegant and distinguished Ricardo Bustamante as the Duke of Courtland and his entourage – there is great excitement and Giselle meets the Count Albrecht, who is disguised as Loys, a peasant…and so the romantic and mysterious journey begins.

Misa Kuranaga in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Chris Hardy

De Sola is fast, light and fluid as the peasant girl with a passion for dance, Giselle dances everywhere only to be curbed by her caring mother, Anita Paciotti as Berthe. Robinson is dynamic as Albrecht/Loys when he meets Giselle. Their partnering is charming, joyous and harmonious with intricate footwork as they weave their way around the many villagers, friends and children.

The Pas de Cinq with Isabella DeVivo, Norika Matsuyama, Carmela Mayo, Max Cauthorn, Hansuke Yamamoto is notable and engaging in Tomasson’s production.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Chris Hardy

While there is a lot of traditional style mimed expression in this production from several characters, and especially between Robinson’s Loys and Nathaniel Remez as Hilarion, a court game keeper, this ballet demands substantial acting skills from its main characters – and they all manage very successfully.

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Lindsay Thomas

The scene changes to another time and place – to the haunting glade of the Wilis, who are ethereal creatures, maidens who died before they wed and live their fragile lives at night. Fogo is a wonderful and commanding Myrtha, the Queen of the Wilis with pure technique and the vision of the corps of Wilis is spectacular. The Wilis are wearing white calf length dresses covered with gossamer tulle and are outstanding as they perform Tomasson’s tricky choreography, ranging from lyrical or en pointe to the ensemble delicately balancing while turning in perfect unison, set amongst a forest of tall dark trees with intricate branches that open and delicately settle into place, inviting the Wilis to inhabit the night, this scene is utterly beguiling.

Beautiful period costumes (with special attention to fascinating hats) in Act I with the striking Wilis costumes in Act II, and the scenic and lighting design are all by Mikael Melbye.

Nikisha Fogo in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Lindsay Thomas

De Sola’s mad scene and the quality of her strength and graceful precision performing sequence after sequence of intricate virtuosic footwork together with her range of character depth in this rigorous multi faceted Giselle in both act I and act II are truly exceptional. Robinson conveys a range of emotions with vibrant muscular expression and a strong presence in his solos and tender partnering with De Sola. They are an exciting match! Throughout the run the casts change, showcasing the quality and depth of SF Ballet dancers. There is much to enjoy and admire about this production – and the final flourishes of this ballet are simply breathtaking! Highly recommended!!!

Sasha De Sola and Aaron Robison in Tomasson’s Giselle // © Lindsay Thomas

More Information and Tickets:

SF Ballet

SF Ballet: Giselle information and Trailer

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin  Arts & Travel Reviews

Helgi Tomasson’s Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet

By Jo Tomalin
Photo above: Nikisha Fogo in Tomasson’s Nutcracker at San Francisco Ballet. Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton


San Francisco Ballet presents Nutcracker, December 8-27, 2022 at the War memorial Opera House. Choreographed by Helgi Tomasson in 2004, and set to music by Peter Ilyich Tchaikovsky, orchestra conducted by Martin West. This joyous Nutcracker is set in San Francisco, 1915. It is a ballet for everyone to enjoy in the holiday season, and this Nutcracker is a wonderful return to live performances.

The story of young Clara is first told through visual and physical storytelling as we see her uncle Drosselmeyer – expressively played by Pascal Molat, putting the finishing touches on his special present for Clara at her family Christmas party. Then guests are welcomed into the elegant family house and the magic begins!


Tiit Helimets in Tomasson’s Nutcracker
Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton

Clara’s friends are played by Students of the San Francisco Ballet School, and they interact gleefully, play games expressed though dance in delightful sequences and combinations while the parents gather together and gifts arrive. Clara receives her specially crafted present from her uncle, a beautifully carved nutcracker character, and the dream begins. Clara, played by Ruby Rosenquist with charm and verve is taken to a magical world where everything is sweetness and wonder.

San Francisco Ballet comes into its own with the corps and soloists presenting the traditional characters of Nutcracker. There are many different characters and dances in this ballet, that entertain and surprise – with dashes of excitement and humor!

San Francisco Ballet in Tomasson’s Nutcracker
Photo credit: © Quinn Wharton

A standout partnering is Yuan Yuan and Henry Sidford as the Queen & King of the Snow supported by a glorious corps of Snowflakes. This is a memorable scene that is precise in footwork and lifts, it is certainly a beautifully transporting moment.

Isaac Hernández is charming and dynamic as The Nutcracker Prince when he meets Clara, and later when he partners Sasha De Sola in the iconic Grand Pas de Deux. De Sola is mesmerising as she takes command of the stage in her virtuosic solos and the elegant duet with Hernández.

Wona Park is the magical Sugar Plum Fairy followed by the energy and precision of the dramatic Spanish dance. A particularly lovely vision with delicate choreography is the Waltzing Flowers, an ensemble of sixteen dancers creating combinations of groups and images in movement that is breathtaking.

This ballet is strongly supported by a team of outstanding creatives who all produce exquisite results that work together so well in Nutcracker:

Scenic Design: Michael Yeargan; Costume Design: Martin Pakledinaz; Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington; Lighting Design: James F. Ingalls; Projection Design: Wendall K. Harrington.

San Francisco Ballet’s Nutcracker is simply a heart warming and beautiful experience!

More Information and Tickets:

Jo Tomalin, Ph.D. reviews Dance & Theatre Performances
More Reviews by Jo Tomalin
TWITTER @JoTomalin  Arts & Travel Reviews