San Francisco Ballet is in the midst of “next@90,” its 90th season festival of new works with premieres by nine choreographers running through Feb. 12 at the War Memorial Opera House. Under the helm of artistic director Tamara Rojo, a longtime ballerina and former English National Ballet director who took the reins at S.F. Ballet in January 2022, the three repertory programs showcase the company’s gorgeous dancers. Created by an uncharacteristically diverse group of dancemakers as the company focuses on inclusivity, the works unsurprisingly are of varied styles and moods. Here’s a quick roundup, in chronological order, of the dances performed on Jan. 22 (Garland/Roberts/Rowe), Jan. 26 (Caniparoli/Breiner/Oishi) and Feb. 2 (Schreier/Blanc/Possokhov).


Julia Rowe and Esteban Hernández take center stage in Robert Garland’s “Haffner Serenade.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Robert Garland, resident choreographer of Dance Theatre of Harlem, supplied “Haffner Serenade” in an answer to a call during the pandemic from former S.F. Ballet director Helgi Tomasson, who learned that white institutions weren’t hiring him because he was Black. Set to Mozart’s spritely composition of the same name (Martin West conducts the orchestra), the fest’s opening number is a nice example of classical ballet, with 10 dancers on pointe moving in lively varied formations, and the spotlight on Julia Rowe and Esteban Hernández, wearing unforgettable ruffles, tulle and Crayola carnation pink. Pleasant enough, it’s hardly groundbreaking. 

Dores André is a dramatic witch in Jamar Roberts’ “Resurrection” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Jamar Roberts, a Black dancemaker and former dancer with Alvin Ailey American Dance Theater, created “Resurrection,” set to the first movement of Mahler’s Symphony No. 2, “Resurrection.” While the resurrection theme is clear — witch-like Dores André indeed dramatically lifts a man from the dead amid a dense haze — her relationship with her followers remains unclear, and the black-clad dancers’ movement gets lost in the darkness.  

Tiit Helimets plays the sad clown in Danielle Rowe’s “Madcap.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet)  

Danielle Rowe, former dancer and contributing S.F. Ballet choreographer’s effective, theatrical “Madcap” tells creepy stories from the seedy circus world, complete with an empathetic sad clown (Tiit Helimets) who’s taunted by an oracle (Jennifer Stahl), mirror (Sasha De Sola) and two carnies in stripes (Davide Occhipinti, Henry Sidford), who do a cool trick with a red nose. Composer Pär Hagström’s appropriately oom-pah compositions complete the vivid scene.  

More performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 4, 7:30 p.m. Feb. 9 and 2 p.m. Feb. 11.  


San Francisco Ballet dancers navigate the pandemic in Val Caniparoli’s “Emergence.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Veteran S.F. Ballet choreographer Val Caniparoli’s to-the-moment “Emergence” effectively addresses fallout from the pandemic, and recovery. A charged, contemporary classical score by Dobrinka Tabakova, conducted by Matthew Rowe and featuring cellist Eric Sung provides the rhythmic structure for the eight dancers (four men and women, in costumes not unlike streetwear) who feel separate, yet learn to connect, and reconnect. Totally relatable, “Emergence” thrills.  

Sasha De Sola and Wei Wang are featured Bridget Breiner’s story ballet “The Queen’s Daughter.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet)

Bridget Breiner, an American dancer and choreographer working in dance and opera in Germany for decades, often on adaptations and story ballets, created “The Queen’s Daughter,” set to Benjamin Britten’s Violin Concerto, and showcasing S.F. Ballet Orchestra’s adept concertmaster Cordula Merks. While lead dancers Sasha De Sola (daughter), Jennifer Stahl (queen), Tiit Helimets (king) and Wei Wang (prophet) have a commanding presence, the confusing story, based on New Testament figures Salome and John the Baptist, ultimately lacks cohesion, the performers’ movement not adding to the drama.  

Yuan Yuan Tan comes out on top in Yuka Oishi’s “Bolero.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Yuka Oishi, a Japanese dancer and choreographer working in Japan and Europe, pumps up the drama in “Bolero,” her picture version of Ravel’s classic. The piece, however, opens with new music by Shinya Kiyokawa, as dancers strut in front of a video screen flashing amoeba-like abstractions. Sixteen performers, wearing print body stockings under gray suits, which they ceremoniously shed, are featured in the crowd-pleasing, contemporary dance that appealingly builds as Ravel’s famously repeating tune kicks in, and sinuous, exquisite Yuan Yuan Tan satisfyingly emerges into the spotlight.   

More performances are at 8 p.m. Feb. 3 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 8.  


From left, WanTing Zhao, Aaron Robison, Dores André and Isaac Hernández appear in Claudia Schreier’s “Kin.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Claudia Schreier, resident choreographer for Atlanta Ballet (whose works include the Dance Theatre of Harlem’s acclaimed “Passage,” which addressed slaves’ struggles and resiliency) created the third program’s opening number, “Kin.” Set to an original score by Tanner Porter reminiscent of an adventure movie soundtrack, it has 12 unitard-clad corps members in pairs, angular poses or show-bizzy circle and line formations in front of a dark backdrop and dimly lit, slanting poles. Its innovative focus is the shifting relationships between the principal women, Dores André and WanTing Zhao, partnered by Aaron Robison and Isaac Hernández.

Thirteen dancers are featured in Nicolas Blanc’s “Gateway to the Sun.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

Former S.F. Ballet dancer Nicolas Blanc was inspired by Persian-Islamic poet and mystic Rumi (according to program notes) for his possibly too serene “Gateway to the Sun,” featuring Myles Thatcher front and center as “a poet,” surrounded by 12 dancers, some in couples, in odd unisex costumes (leotards with partial little skirts) in front of a mountain backdrop (both designed by Katrin Schnabl). While flowing movement in the admittedly soothing piece remains indecipherable, Anna Clyne’s evocative composition “Dance,” conducted by Matthew Rowe and with a killer cello solo by Eric Sung, is truly lovely.        

Sasha Mukhamedov and Joseph Walsh are in the spotlight in Yuri Possokhov’s “Violin Concerto.” (Photo by Lindsay Thomas/Courtesy San Francisco Ballet) 

S.F. Ballet veteran choreographer Yuri Possokhov’s crowd-pleasing “Violin Concerto,” an ode to groundbreaking composer Igor Stravinsky and featuring a cool changing backdrop with large photos of him, closes the festival with a bang. Set to Stravinsky’s Concerto in D for Violin and Orchestra, also famously used by George Balanchine, the dynamic dance, with the women on pointe and mostly in black-and-white tutus, has thrilling pulse and edge. The exception is “muse” Sasha Mukhamedov, resplendent in pink and white, who sets the impish tone; Joseph Walsh also dazzles, as does concertmaster Cordula Merks’ virtuosic violin.     

More performances are at 2 p.m. Feb. 4-5 and 7:30 p.m. Feb. 7.  

San Francisco Ballet’s “next@90” continues through Feb. 12 at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave., San Francisco. Tickets are $29 to $455; visit