‘Graziano, Ashton & DeMille’
Audience members are probably starting to get accustomed to Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb’s knack for programming variety into each and every show throughout the season, and this spring program was another perfect example of that. The Sarasota Ballet performed Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Monotones I & II,” Ricardo Graziano’s “Before Night Falls” and Agnes DeMille’s “Rodeo.” These pieces all presented a mix of classical, contemporary and storyline.
Ashton’s “Monotones I & II” are two pas de trois pieces with the first featuring two women and one man and the second, the opposite, with two men and one woman. The pieces are performed on a stark stage in unitards and skullcaps emphasizing the movements performed by the dancers. In “Monotones I” the two women danced by Ryoko Sadoshima and Samantha Benoit mirror each other while dancing with Alex Harrison. This piece requires immense control from the dancers, because the choreography calls for many poses in arabesque, développés and sur la pointe. In “Monotones II” Ricardo Graziano and Ricardo Rhodes partnered Victoria Hulland with precision while she balanced in overstretched positions such as a full split on pointe.
Ricardo Graziano’s “Before Night Falls” was absolutely breathtaking. Graziano demonstrates that not only does his choreography skills continue to improve, but also his dexterity at contemporary pieces versus the classical and neoclassical styles. “Before Night Falls” was set to music by Ólafur Arnalds, which featured classical strings mixed in with electronic musical undertones. The piece demonstrated the different emotions love makes you experience through four different pas de deuxs.
Victoria Hulland and Edward Gonzalez were flirtatious while experiencing new love. Kristianne Kleine and Juan Gil were absolutely glorious in the thrills of new love. Kleine demonstrated a renewed sense of maturity on stage in both her technique and emotions. Kate Honea begged forgiveness and a second chance in her pas de deux with David Tlaiye. And emotions were charged as Ricardo Rhodes and Danielle Brown had one last kiss before Brown died in Rhodes’ arms. Each of these pas de deuxs were interspersed with intense dancing from three separate couples that seemed to embody the stresses of life that affect relationships.
DeMille’s “Rodeo” is always a crowd favorite and a classic of all time. With Aaron Copland’s boisterous score, DeMille created an all-American ballet pairing traditional dances such as the square dance with contemporary dance steps and riding movements. DeMille, who originated the role of the Cowgirl, herself would most definitely approve of Elizabeth Sykes as the Cowgirl. Sykes has a lovely animated face that blends both comedy and emotion along with a crisp technique and dancing style that is perfect for the role. Also notable: Logan Learned impressed with his tap-dance solo while Ricardo Graziano walked around with the right amount of swagger igniting a few yeehaws from the audience.