Dance History Quiz | Helgi Tomasson’s competitor

Fun facts for teachers & students

San Francisco Ballet artistic director Helgi Tomasson, who turns 76 this fall, won a silver medal at the first Moscow International Ballet competition, held in 1969. Which man won gold that year?

a. Jean-Pierre Bonnefoux
b. Mikhail Baryshnikov
c. Peter Martins
d. Alexander Godunov

b. Mikhail Baryshnikov

Tomasson experienced his share of ups and downs preparing for the Moscow International Ballet competition: choreographer Jerome Robbins, who championed Tomasson for a scholarship at SAB, allowed him to dance a solo from Dances at a Gathering, but as Tomasson told San Francisco Chronicle dance writer Allan Ulrich many years later, he had to ransack the Bolshoi costume warehouse to find a costume for his solo from the Black Swan grand pas de deux, and tracking down a rehearsal pianist “was pure hell.” But he received memorable feedback on his silver-medal performance from legendary ballerina Maya Plisetskaya, who was on the jury: “I gave you all my votes,” she told him. The medal-winning dancers’ paths would cross again after the competition; Tomasson joined New York City Ballet in 1970 and stayed until 1985; Baryshnikov joined the company in 1978.

For more information:
20 Years of Helgi,” SFGate, Allan Ulrich, January 23, 2005

Moscow International Ballet Competition history

 “SF Ballet’s impressive 2018 season reflects Helgi Tomasson’s aesthetic,” San Francisco Chronicle, Allan Ulrich, January 17, 2018

 “Baryshnikov Quits Ballet,” New York Times, Anna Kisselgoff, October 16, 1979