SF Ballet’s spotlights stories, current voices, rarely seen works

In 2025, San Francisco Ballet will present the local premiere of San Francisco Ballet Artistic Director Tamara Rojo's “Raymonda,” pictured in a 2022 English National Ballet presentation. (Courtesy Johan Persson/ArenaPAL)

San Francisco Ballet will present seven programs, including the company premiere of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon,” the North American premiere of Akram Khan’s “Dust” and Artistic Director Tamara Rojo’s adaptation of Marius Petipa’s “Raymonda,” when its 92nd season opens on Dec. 6. 

“In 2025, San Francisco Ballet will explore a range of choreographic and artistic styles and deliver profound human connections through dance — from seduction to heartbreak, and from stories of conflict to gothic science fiction,” Rojo said. 

On April 16, Rojo announced the 2024-25 season, which kicks off with the 20th anniversary presentation of Helgi Tomasson’s San Francisco-set “Nutcracker” (Dec. 6-29). The company, which in 1944 became the first in America to stage a full-length production of the holiday favorite, will reprise a performance of the ballet for neuro-diverse audiences on Dec. 29. 

Before the season opens at the War Memorial Opera House, the troupe will make its first tour since 2019 with a visit to Madrid’s Teatro Real for eight performances of Tomasson’s “Swan Lake” from Oct. 15-22.  

“Returning to my home country of Spain with San Francisco Ballet is a dream come true, and I am simply thrilled to present ‘Swan Lake’ in Madrid and at the beautiful Teatro Real,” Rojo said. “I am especially excited and proud to present the extraordinary dancers of this great company in this fantastic production of ‘Swan Lake’ to the discerning audiences of Spain.” 

The upcoming repertory season begins with an opening night gala on Jan. 22, 2025. (Details to be announced.) The local premiere of MacMillan’s “Manon” (Jan. 24-Feb. 1) marks the second time the company is staging a piece by the giant of British ballet, following “Song of the Earth” this season. 

Marianela Nuñez is pictured in The Royal Ballet’s 2024 production of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Manon,” which will be staged by San Francisco Ballet in 2025. (Photo by Foteini Christofilopoulou/Courtesy Royal Ballet)

“Manon,” which premiered at the Royal Ballet in 1974, was MacMillan’s second three-act ballet he choreographed as Royal Ballet artistic director, after “Anastasia.” “Manon,” among several story ballets in San Francisco Ballet 2025 season, is based on Abbé Prévost’s novel “L’Histoire du Chevalier des Grieux et de Manon Lescaut,” which inspired operas by Massenet and Puccini.   

The British theme continues with “Cool Britannia” (Feb. 13-19), featuring Wayne McGregor’s “Chroma,” which explores the drama of the human body and last seen at here in 2012; Christopher Wheeldon’s 2008 “Within the Golden Hour,” with three intricate pas de deux; and Khan’s widely acclaimed “Dust.” 

Tamara Rojo and James Streeter appeared in English National Ballet’s production of Akram Khan’s “Dust” in 2015; the piece will get its San Francisco premiere in February 2025. (Photography by ASH, photo by Arnaud Stephenson)

“Dust,” among Rojo’s first commissions as artistic director of the English National Ballet when it debuted in April 2014, was Khan’s first work for a ballet company. The contemporary piece commemorates World War I, focusing on men who built and lived in the trenches and women who had a growing role in the workforce. The opus is set to Jocelyn Pook’s score combining vocals, poetry, and a recording of a soldier from 1916.  

“Raymonda” (March 1-8), Rojo’s first choreographed work at English National Ballet when it premiered there in January 2022, is a reworking of Petipa’s 1898 ballet set to a score by Alexander Glazunov. Instead of a Middle Eastern setting during the Crusades in the Petipa original, which is rarely seen in the U.S., Rojo’s reimagining fast-forwards the piece to the 19th-century Crimean War and casts Florence Nightingale as a central figure. 

San Francisco Ballet’s Max Cauthorn and Wei Wang appeared in Liam Scarlett’s “Frankenstein” in 2018; the dance will be reprised in 2025. (Courtesy Erik Tomasson/San Francisco Ballet)

The company will revive and then encore perform its co-production of English choreographer Liam Scarlett’s “Frankenstein” (March 20-26, April 26-May 4, 2025), last seen here in 2018. Based on Mary Shelley’s 19th-century gothic novel and pop culture classic, the sweeping work is set to an original score by Lowell Liebermann. 

A program of four contemporary works by Dutch choreographer Hans van Manen with “Van Manen” runs April 5-19. It includes “Solo,” the San Francisco premiere of “5 Tango’s,” “Grosse Fuge” and “Variations for Two Couples,” which are set to music by Bach, Beethoven, Britten, tango master Astor Piazzolla and more, while blending classical and contemporary dance themes. 

“Broken Love” (April 8-18) is a double bill of memorable War Memorial Opera House debuts this season: Annabelle Lopez Ochoa’s “Broken Wings” and Frederick Ashton’s “Marguerite and Armand.” Both “Broken Wings,” an account of Mexican artist Frida Kahlo’s life and art, and “Marguerite and Armand,” created for Rudolf Nureyev and Margot Fonteyn, highlight love’s lasting power despite hardships, illness and injury. 

The return of Dores André and Max Cauthorn as principal dancers, promotion of corps de ballet members Kamryn Baldwin, Carmela Mayo, and Joshua Jack Price to soloists, and the appointment of soloists Fernando Carratalá Coloma and Victor Prigent, both from the English National Ballet, are among the key roster changes. 

An annual partnership with the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco will commission local artists to create a new stage drape for a production every season. To inaugurate the initiative, FAMSF acquired the strikingly colorful stage drape designed by Oakland artist Maria A. Guzmán Capron for “Dos Mujeres.” 

San Francisco Ballet’s announcement comes one month after it received the largest donation it its history, an anonymous $60 million gift to endow new work. The gift complements the launch this year of Creation House, an initiative focusing on choreography and new work development for company members, San Francisco Ballet School students and guest artists. Recently, principal dancer Esteban Hernández was commissioned to create a work for ballet school trainees’ touring repertoire next season under the program.  

“I am thrilled to expand the classical repertoire for San Francisco Ballet with works that showcase the brilliance of our dancers, while continuing to engage fresh perspectives and uplift the artistry of leading creatives from around the world,” Rojo said.  

San Francisco Ballet’s 2024-25 season runs Dec. 6-May 4, 2025, at the War Memorial Opera House, 301 Van Ness Ave, San Francisco. For single tickets (starting at $29 and on sale in the fall) and subscriptions (on sale now), call (415) 865-2000 or visit sfballet.org. 

San Francisco Ballet Programs 
Nutcracker: Dec. 6-29
Manon: Jan. 24-Feb. 1 
Cool Britannia: Feb. 13-19 
Raymonda: March 1-8 
Frankenstein: March 20-26, April 26-May 4 
Van Manen: April 5-19 
Broken Love: April 8-18

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