San Francisco Ballet rehearsing Rhoden's The Promised Land // © Erik Tomasson

SF Ballet to Bring on “The Promised Land”

As noted in an earlier post, The San Francisco Ballet has been introducing a series of world premieres.

Opening on April 6, Program 6 features the world premieres of Christopher Wheeldon’s Finale Finale, a tribute to Tomasson’s final season, and Dwight Rhoden’s The Promised Land.

The Promised Land explores society’s ongoing emergence from the Covid-19 pandemic and racial reckoning in the U.S. “I wanted to access the resiliency and perseverance of the human spirit, physically, mentally, emotionally, and spiritually,” said Rhoden about his creation. “The essence of the piece is about how we recover, what we do to get through, how we meet the challenges day-to-day.” Set to music by a collection of composers including Philip Glass and Hans Zimmer, The Promised Land is an abstract piece involving what Rhoden calls a “wandering narrative.” The Promised Land is Rhoden’s third ballet created for SF Ballet, following LET’S BEGIN AT THE END, created during 2018 Unbound: A Festival of New Works, and his contributions to the dance film Dance of Dreams in 2020. Rhoden is co-founder of Complexions Contemporary Ballet with Desmond Richardson.

Finale Finale is Wheeldon’s 11th work set on SF Ballet and captures the festive spirit of its score by Darius Milhaud, Le Boeuf sur le toit (The Ox on the Roof). “Creating for San Francisco Ballet has always been an incredible experience for me, very joyful, very collaborative,” said Wheeldon. “I owe a lot to Helgi in so many ways: my development as a choreographer, having the opportunity to be here in a city that I love, working in this great theater, with this great company.” Planned as incidental music for a Charlie Chaplin film, Milhaud’s Le Boeuf sur le toit evolved into a ballet libretto by Jean Cocteau, which premiered in 1920. While Wheeldon has abandoned Cocteau’s libretto, he retains a “Chaplin-esque” solo and acrobatic elements in his new ballet. Wheeldon won two Tony Awards in 2015 for directing and choreographing Broadway’s An American in Paris. His first creation for SF Ballet, Sea Pictures, premiered in 2000.

Program 6 also includes Tomasson’s Prism, created for New York City Ballet in 2000, danced to a score by Beethoven.