The Sarasota Ballet presented a mixed bill this past weekend featuring reprisals of André Prokovsky’s “Vespri” and Dominic Walsh’s “I Napoletani,” which this time featured the dancers of the Sarasota Ballet instead of his own company, along with a series of classically renowned solos and pas de deux.
Nothing in the entire production could outshine the return of Sarasota Ballet’s own prodigy, Bridgett Zehr, a principal ballerina with the National Ballet of Canada who got her start at the Sarasota Ballet’s Dance — The Next Generation — an outreach program for underprivileged children. Zehr truly is a refined and glorious dancer with both the natural facilities for ballet — high-reaching extension, refined lines and beautiful feet — as well as an emotional presence that radiates to the audience. Her performance brought tears to the eyes. In Christopher Wheeldon’s “Prokofiev Pas de Deux,” which Zehr performed with partner Zdenek Konvalina, she danced each step and sequence with such feeling that you almost felt transported onto the stage with her.
Coming close to Zehr’s radiance — quite literally — in gold body paint and costume designed by Bill Fenner, was Logan Learned in Marius Petipa’s “Bronze Idol” solo from “La Bayadere.” Learned leaped to unreachable heights and did multiple pirouettes, both in passé and attitude front and back with his supporting leg in plié while en demi-pointe. It was a perfect performance.
“Vespri” is a delightful, plotless, classical piece that features both the corps de ballet and its soloists equally. The corps performed with precision while the soloists performed different solos, Pas de Deux, Pas de Cinq and Pas de Trois. The Pas de Cinq was especially enjoyable with four men — Octavio Martin, Jamie Carter, Simon Mummé and David Nava — passing around Victoria Hulland with lifts and turns as if she were a doll. But the real standout of this piece was Ricardo Rhodes, who performed the first male solo with enthusiasm and ease, while completing difficult petit battement combinations among leaps and ever-reaching straddle jumps.
“I Napoletani” is an amusing contemporary piece that plays on the vitality of Naples, Italy. The piece begins with a dramatic enactment of Teatro San Carlo, during which both the male and female dancers are featured behind a scrim in full-length tutus. David Nava excelled in this scene with a lyrical quality paired with emotional depth. The ballet turns lighthearted with “A Tazza ‘e Café,” when Sara Scherer, who has a real knack for Walsh’s contemporary moves, shines with humor. The comedy continues while hysterical images of Ricki Bertoni, as a handsome Italian stallion, flash on the stage; Mummé tries to woo Hulland; and the entire cast crowds around an Italian kitchen table and creates a piece using hand motions.
— Anna Dearing
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