Opening up the 23rd season of the Sarasota Ballet with a program featuring the works of its own dancers in “Theatre of Dreams” was a great way to kick-off what’s expected to be a knock-out year for the ballet company. The entire show always surges with energy — excitement from the dancers who are given the opportunity to choreograph, excitement from the dancers performing their peers’ works and excitement from the audience witnessing the hard work and passion the entire company has for its craft.
Three of the pieces on the program were created by veteran “Theatre of Dreams” choreographers — Kate Honea, Logan Learned and Jamie Carter — and three pieces were by virgin choreographers — Alex Harrison, David Tlaiye and Kelly Yankle. The program offered a variety of styles and themes offering delight to many styles and tastes. Of course the veteran choreographers’ pieces were more notably full of depth, levels of complication and length due to more experience, every piece was an achievement in itself.
Kate Honea’s “Gitana Galop” set to Johan Strauss’ “Five Gallops from Kettentanz” was a glittering array of waltzing couples in and out of formations along with solo dances from audience-favorite Logan Learned and lead couple Emily Dixon and Edward Gonzalez.
Honea has mastered multi-layered choreography where different groups of dancers are dancing different sequences of steps to several different sections of music at the same time. This gives the piece a full-effect making even a small cast seem larger-than-life. Logan Learned always delights the audience with his high-flying leaps, double tour en l’air and multiple entrechat six. The wonderfully talented (both technically and dramatically) Emily Dixon has found herself a nice partner in Edward Gonzalez, the newest member of the Sarasota Ballet after defecting from Cuba. Gonzalez has all the makings of a Cuban dancer with their signature knack for being able to pull-off multiple pirouettes.
Edward Tlaiye’s “Xibalba” was a contemporary piece set to Radiohead’s “Videotape.” The premise of the piece was a love affair gone wrong with Sareen Tchekmedyian leaving Ricki Bertoni for Juan Gil. Bertoni was the star of this piece. His ability to perform diverse styles of dance from the classical to the utmost contemporary, like in this piece where his body is contorted into a multitude of difficult movements, is astounding. Tlaiye’s piece was an interesting, and in-fact slightly disturbing with Tchekmedyian smothering Bertoni to death with a pillow, start for this new choreographer.
Alex Harrison’s “The Blue Hour” was a beautiful pas de deux set to Frederic Chopin’s “Nocturne #27 Opus 2) featuring Danielle Brown and Ricardo Graziano who are the absolute best at dancing pas de deuxs that portray passion and giddiness of love. This pas de deux had the lyrical qualities much like Antony Tudor’s “The Leaves are Fading.” Kelly Yankle’s “Ne Me Quitte Pas” set to Edith Piaf’s song of the same name was another pas de deux featuring David Tlaiye and Sara Scherer. This pas de deux was more contemporary in nature and reflected more on the ending of a relationship.
Logan Learned went the opposite direction this year with his piece “Nebulous.” Last year his piece certainly had a “story” and this year his piece was more along the lines of the neoclassical non-story ballets, much like his title describes. “Nebulous” was set to Philip Glass’ “Violin Concerto Movement 3” and featured some of the company’s strongest dancers in three couples — Kate Honea and Juan Gil, Victoria Hulland and Ricardo Rhodes, Elizabeth Sykes and Ricardo Graziano. Not to take anything away from the lovely ladies, but the three men were certainly powerhouses in this piece.
Jamie Carter is a whimsical choreographer always surprising his audience with interesting themes. This year “The Tarot” describes the process of tarot cards through dance set to specially commissioned music by Louis Mander that was played live on stage. The large cast was costumed in original pieces designed by Bill Fenner. Ryoko Sadoshima who danced the role of “The Moon” was a true standout in this piece. Her quality of movement in sweeping pas de bourrée couru across the stage and elegant balances in arabesque was a delight to watch.
“Theatre of Dreams” is always one of this critic’s favorite programs of the season and it was a pleasure to have it be the first one of this year’s lineup.