I’d heard whispers of this for weeks, but the San Francisco Ballet just made it official. Gonzalo Garcia–the company’s big-hearted Spanish principal, and truly its main male star–is leaving the company. I’d figured the company was awaiting confirmation of his next endeavor before announcing his departure, but the press release states only that Garcia will guest with Christopher Wheeldon’s new pick-up company Morphoses this summer and fall. The press release also makes no mention of why Garcia is leaving.

To say his departure is a surprise is an understatement–and it is also a major loss. Garcia rose up through the San Francisco Ballet school and became a clear protege of artistic director Helgi Tomasson. As a student he won the gold medal at the Prix de Lausanne–the youngest dancer ever to do so–but he was so fastidious that when Tomasson first offered him a contract, he deferred in order to train an extra year. His early performances had puppyish excitement –I’ll never forget the sweat spraying from his brow like a sprinkler head in the whiz-bang finale of Tomasson’s “Prism.” From the start he had an incredible jump and clear technical prowress coupled with a wild, almost ragged energy. But what really endeared him to the audience was his obvious, irrepressible joy in dancing. Few dancers give so much of themselves so exuberantly onstage.

I’ll never forget his performances as the Brown Boy in Robbins’ “Dances at a Gathering,” or in Balanchine’s “Rubies.” I always especially loved his hands, which were big, more like paws, so natural and without artifice. I won’t speculate on why he’s leaving. I just know we’ll all miss his presence so much.

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