NAME: Ruud, Tom

25 May 1943, Pasadena, Calif.

28 February 1994, San Francisco, Calif., age 50

Photo: Marty Sahl

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  • key contact
  • human repositories
  • video documentation
  • photographic documentation
  • movement notation
  • production materials
  • oral history
  • personal papers
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    Tomm Ruud was a dancer and choreographer perhaps best known for two things: his annual performance in the role of Drosselmeyer in San Francisco Ballet's (SFB) annual production of The Nutcracker, and his ballet Mobile which has been a mainstay of SFB's repertory. Mobile was made into a film and is found in the repertoire of over twenty companies worldwide. Raised in Afton, Wyoming, Ruud received both bachelor's and master's degrees in dance from the University of Utah. He danced with Ballet West in Salt Lake City before joining San Francisco Ballet in 1975. Ruud was named a principal dancer when Helgi Tomasson instituted ranking during the company's 1986-87 season and made guest appearances nationally and internationally with such companies as the National Ballet of Canada, the Ninth International Ballet Festival in Havana, San Antonio Ballet, and Oakland Ballet.

    As a choreographer, Ruud created several works for SFB. His 1969 work, Mobile, was made into a short subject film titled Balances and was shown by the company at gala events in 1983 and 1994. Ruud has also choreographed for companies such as American Ballet Theatre, National Ballet of Cuba, the Columbia National Ballet of Bogota, Ballet Met, Alaska Dance Theater, Oakland Ballet, and Kansas City Ballet. After retiring as a classical dancer, he remained as a principal character dancer and a member of artistic director Helgi Tomasson's artistic staff, serving as a rehearsal assistant and teacher for the San Francisco Ballet School, until shortly before his death of AIDS-related causes.

    Mary Ruud Wood, ex-wife
    453 Third Ave
    San Francisco, CA 94118

    Christopher Ruud, son
    c/o Ballet West
    50 W. 200 South
    Salt Lake City, UT 84101

    (name and contact info, relationship to the artist and the work, assessment):

    Christopher Ruud has staged and performed in Mobile on numerous occasions with Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah.

    Also, please see performer credits under "PARTIAL LIST OF WORKS."

    (location, format, condition, assessment):

    In addition to archival video held by the San Francisco Ballet, the San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum (SFPALM) holds the following video documentation:

    Vivaldi pas de deux is included on a 1989 videocassette titled, "Creations" [videorecording], 1 videocassette (VHS) (73 min.), 1/2 in. viewing copy and press release.

    Bella di notte is included on a videocassette cataloged as, "Oakland Ballet Program IV in performance at the Paramount Theatre, November 16, 1991" [videorecording], 1 videocassette (VHS) (76 min.), 1/2 in. viewing copy and calendar listing.

    (location, format, condition, assessment):

    SFPALM holds the following photographic documentation:

    Metamorphoses, performed by the San Francisco Ballet/ photographed by various photographers (1977, 15 photographic prints, black and white, 21 x 26 cm); Trilogy, performed by the San Francisco Ballet/ photographed by various photographers (1978 or 1979, 39 photographic prints, black and white, 26 x 21 cm. + 6 photonegatives); and Richmond Diary, performed by the San Francisco Ballet/ photographed by various photographers (50 photographic prints, black and white, 26 x 21 cm. + 5 contact sheets). Catalog number: MAIN GV1786.S32 S73.

    Additionally SFPALM has a large file of photographs from the San Francisco Ballet featuring Tomm Ruud as a performer.

    (location, type [including notes taken by dancers], assessment):

    None identified.

    (scores, sound recordings, set/costume designs):

    None identified.

    The following transcript and recordings are available at SFPALM:

    Tomm Ruud (1943-1994): An Oral History. Transcript of 1995 interview by Dennis Mullen for the Legacy Oral History Project, Jeff Friedman, ed.; accompanied by 3 sound cassettes, 1 video cassette, resumes, obituaries, memorial programs, magazines, and material about the choreographic work Mobile.

    Tomm Ruud radio interview with Alan Farley [sound recording], 1980, 1 sound cassette (60 min.), analog, stereo.

    (location of newspaper clippings, printed programs, press releases, notes, files, diaries; assessment):

    The San Francisco Performing Arts Library and Museum has a small file of press clippings and obituaries for Ruud, Tomm. Mary Ruud Wood holds files of clippings, correspondence, contracts, photos, and other career souvenirs. Christopher Ruud holds a small collection of personal and career souvenirs.

    (archival assistance? storage? other?):

    None identified.

    From the biography included in the LEGACY Oral History transcript:

    "In 1981, Tomm separated from his wife [Mary Ruud Wood] and began living openly as a gay man. The divorce was amicable. In 1986 Tomm was diagnosed with HIV-infection and Mary Ruud Wood continued as his primary care-giver and best friend."

    Son Christopher Ruud was born 24 April 1977. He has been a member of Ballet West in Salt Lake City, Utah, since 1998 and a soloist since 2001.

    (title, premiere date, music, production notes, performers):

    The following list of works was taken from San Francisco Ballet: the First Fifty Years and indicates production notes for San Francisco Ballet premieres (Mobile and Statements premiered with Ballet West).

    Mobile (Moving Objects Behaving in Linear Equipose) (1969)—music: Aram Khachaturian (Gayne, Adagio); principal dancers: Roderick Drew, Sara Maule, Krista Scholter; (world premiere, Ballet West, 1969) San Francisco

    Statements (1972)—music: Aaron Copland (Statements for Orchestra), costumes by L.F. Shultz; principal dancers: Christine Bennett, Victoria Gyorfi, Laurence Mathews, Geoffrey Thomas; (world premiere, Ballet West, 1972) San Francisco

    Metamorphoses (1977)—music: Paul Creston (Metamorphoses, Op. 84); costumes by Steven Rubin; principal dancers: Betsy Erickson, Michael Graham, Victoria Gyorfi, Susan Magno, Vane Vest, Gary Wahl, Diana Weber; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

    Trilogy (1978)—music: Béla Bartók (Music for Strings, Percussion, and Celeste and Concerto for Orchestra, third movement) and Aram Khachaturian (Gayne, adagio); costumes by Ron Hodge; principal dancers: Damara Bennett, Gardner Carlson, Jim Sohm, Deborah Zdobinski; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

    Richmond Diary (1979)—music by Ron Daum; book by Ron Daum (from a story by Tom Carlin); costumes and scenery by Steven Rubin; principal dancers: David McNaughton, Paula Tracy, Vane Vest, and Diana Weber; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

    Introduction and Allegro (1980)—music: Sir Edward Elgar (Introduction and Allegro for Quartet and String Orchestra, Op. 47); costumes by Sandra Woodall; principal dancers: Betsy Erickson and Anton Ness; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco

    Steps for Two (1982)—music: Igor Stravinsky (Eight Miniatures for Fifteen Players); costumes by Elizabeth Ross; principal dancers: Eda Holmes and Tomm Ruud; War Memorial Opera House, San Francisco


    • Green, Judith. 1994. "Tomm Ruud, Featured Dancer with S.F. Ballet" [obituary]. [San Jose] Mercury News (1 March).
    • San Francisco Chronicle. 1994. "Tomm Ruud—Principal Dancer For S.F. Ballet" [obituary] (1 March).
    • Steinberg, Cobbett. 1983. San Francisco Ballet: The First Fifty Years. San Francisco Ballet Association: Chronicle Books, pp. 202-209.
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