San Francisco Ballet, Helgi Tomasson shine in opener 

click to enlarge Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Caniparoli's "A Cinderella Story" on Thursday at the San Francisco Ballet's opening night gala. - ERIK TOMASSON/SAN FRANCISCO BALLET
  • Erik Tomasson/San Francisco Ballet
  • Lorena Feijoo and Vitor Luiz in Caniparoli's "A Cinderella Story" on Thursday at the San Francisco Ballet's opening night gala.

When in doubt, start the show off with a gaggle of adorable ballet students. When not in doubt, follow that up with more than two hours of dance highlighting the San Francisco Ballet's past and offering tantalizing glimpses of the season ahead.

The San Francisco Ballet opened its 82nd season Thursday in an evening that also marked Artistic Director Helgi Tomasson's 30th anniversary with the company. The milestone makes Tomasson, who took the helm of the company after hanging up his slippers with the New York City Ballet, the longest-serving sole artistic director at a major U.S. company.

The night -- which uncorked noisily at the War Memorial Opera House with prosecco, shimmering evening gowns and a surprising amount of selfie sticks -- looked to the future with the opening "Defile," an effervescent display of the San Francisco Ballet School students and trainees.

Most of the 11 other pieces hewed closer to the show's theme of "Infinite Romance," as in the pas de deux from "A Cinderella Story" and "On a Theme of Paganini." Featuring company cornerstones Lorena Feijoo and Yuan Yuan Tan, respectively, both pieces flit easily on the premise of new love.

From weightless sylphs to weighty sentiments, an excerpt from "There Where She Loved," cast an early spell.

French dancer Sofiane Sylve contorted exquisitely as a girl tearing out of her lover's grasp -- and practically her own skin -- in a pas de deux with Luke Ingham. Set to a Kurt Weill composition performed by mezzo-soprano Erin Neff and pianist Natal-ya Feygina, it offered a glimpse of the French dancer's turn as wrathful Myrtha in "Giselle," which is starting Thursday.

William Forsythe's "The Vertiginous Thrill of Exactitude," which left less seasoned ballet-goers wondering why the heck the words "skyblue backdrop" were projected behind dancers in green tutus and red onesies, showed off the company's quirky side.

Excerpts from "Alles Walzer" and the closing "Le Corsaire" admirably showcased the company's male dancers, with the Cuban-born Taras Domitro drawing gasps with his gravity-defying arcs and curves.

By that late hour, some impatient balletgoers had already dashed across Van Ness Avenue to the City Hall after-party. For other ballet admirers, the company's Program 2 kicks off Tuesday with selections from "Serenade," "RAkU" and "Lambarena."

About The Author

Giselle Velazquez

Giselle Velazquez was born and raised in the shadow of San Francisco's Diamond Heights and now lives in the shadow of South San Francisco's Sign Hill. She has written for publications such as The S.F. Examiner, Ventura County Star, and the S.F. Bay Guardian.
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