The opening of the 2005 San Francisco Ballet season is fast upon us with the gala kick-off this Wednesday. Ball gowns have been purchased, tuxes returned from the cleaners, and much more importantly, casting has been announced. Among the pleasures promised are Muriel Maffre dancing Forsythe?s ?In the Middle, Somewhat Elevated,? Elizabeth Miner paired with Guennadi Nedviguine in the ?Sleeping Beauty? Bluebird pas de deux, and Vanessa Zahorian and Nicholas Blanc in Balanchine?s ?Tarantella.? And of course a world premiere from Helgi Tomasson, entering his 20th year as artistic director. Allan Ulrich offers a thorough profile in today?s Chronicle:

?This week, the former dancer from Iceland starts his 20th season as artistic director of the San Francisco Ballet, not revitalized as much as transformed over the past two decades. What was a likable American regional troupe linked indelibly with the pioneering Christensen brothers has emerged as a nationally acclaimed ballet company — this country’s third largest — with immense appeal for both dancers and audiences all over the world.

How did two not-always-untroubled decades make such a difference? How did Tomasson accomplish one of the recent miracles of contemporary American dance? The answer, he will tell you, lies in his past — two years at Copenhagen’s Tivoli Ballet, two at the Joffrey Ballet, six at the Harkness and, until his retirement at 42 in 1985, 15 extraordinary years at George Balanchine’s New York City Ballet, where his performing summoned superlatives for his profound understanding and projection of classical values.?

As a small bonus to Allan?s sweeping examination, you will find a quick run down of the season by yours truly. See you at the opera house!

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