Enduring images of SF Ballet 

Helgi Tomasson, the father, is marking the 25th year of heading the San Francisco Ballet as its artistic ­director.

Erik Tomasson, the son, has just opened an exhibit of highlights from his five years as the ballet’s ­photographer.

Father and son both excel at what they do, and apparently there isn’t even an iota of nepotism involved in the conjunction of Tomassons with the company, which opened its 2010 season with its annual gala on Wednesday.

When the younger Tomasson’s show opened last week at the Museum of Performance & Design, he talked about how he switched from a career as a cinematographer to still photography — and moved from the Southland to The City — because of a chance occasion taking pictures in a dance studio.

Dancer-choreographer Tomasson spoke proudly of his son’s work, allowing that none of his children took up dance “probably because they saw how difficult it is.”

Photos of some of the company greats were taken in a studio, in rehearsals and in performance.

Although at rehearsals photographers may get close and at performances they are confined to the back of the main floor of the Opera House, Erik Tomasson says he prefers the life and tension shown in performance shots against the close-ups of what is often not “all-out dancing.”

The opening of the photo exhibit also served as the ballet support group Encore’s 2010 season kick-off.

On hand were the artistic director along with dancers Katita Waldo and Pierre-François Vilanoba speaking about highlights of the new repertory season, which runs Saturday through May 9.

They include: Tomasson’s “Swan Lake” (Program 1), the classic Michel Fokine “Petrouchka” (Program 4), and the U.S. premiere of John Neumeier’s full-length “The Little Mermaid” (Program 5).

Neumeier’s work, set to Hans Christian Andersen’s 1836 tale, they say, “focuses on the deeper, mature themes of the original story, and is not recommended for younger children.” Tomasson calls it spectacular, different and fantastic.

Among notable revivals are Paul Taylor’s “Company B” (Program 2), George Balanchine’s “Serenade,” “Stravinsky Violin Concerto” and “Theme and Variations” (Program 3), Alexei Ratmansky’s “Russian Seasons” (Program 6), and the ­season-­closing Tomasson “Romeo and Juliet” to the Prokofiev score.

Following the photo exhibition, limited-edition prints will be available for sale.

Captured: Erik Tomasson Photographs San Francisco Ballet

Where: Museum of Performance and Design, Veterans Building, 401 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco
When: Noon to 5 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays; closes March 6
Admission: Free
Contact: (415) 255-4800, www.eriktomasson.com

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Staff Report

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A daily newspaper covering San Francisco, San Mateo County and serving Alameda, Marin and Santa Clara counties.
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