Dance Review: 'Rococo Variations,' 'There Where She Loved' and 'Pineapple Poll'

 
 

What a difference great choreography makes. Christopher Wheeldon’s “There Where She Loved” is truly one of the best pieces the Sarasota Ballet has performed all season. It was such a treat to see chor-
eography of that caliber performed not only on the Sarasota stage, but also by the Sarasota Ballet dancers, who did an outstanding job.

Ballets such as Wheeldon’s are what the ballet world needs to keep the art alive. It’s a perfect mix of classical ballet with contemporary choreography, giving die-hard classic fans the pointe work and technique they crave, along with interesting and creative movements that capture contemporaries’ attention. The more pieces like “There Where She Loved” that Director Iain Webb schedules for future seasons, the better.

Set on a stark stage with simple, yet elegant costumes that seem to graduate in color throughout the piece, “There Where She Loved” accentuates the dancers and the steps they perform. Christine Peixoto performed with an understated elegance in “Zyczenie (The Wish),” as she was passed around from partner to partner in lifts, turns and promenades. Such handling can be rough and disjointed, but Jamie Carter, Cort Larson, Yoohong Lee and Ricardo Rhodes maneuvered Peixoto as if she were as light as a feather and a prized possession, while lifting her in arabesque and turning her mid-air into a fish before passing her off to the next partner for a promenade in arabesque penché.

Rhodes was a standout in this performance, possibly finding his forte in the neoclassical style. He was somber and subdued in “Surabaya Johnny,” as he shunned Rita Duclos, Danielle Rae Brown and Abigail Henniger, yet light and playful in “Hulank (Merrymaking).” The petite Sara Sardelli and Logan Learned performed a sweet and simple pas de deux, “Wiosna (Spring),” but the real stunner was “Je ne t’aime pas,” a deep and dramatic pas de deux performed by Amy Wood and Octavio Martin. Wood always performs with precision and perfect lines and gave the audience a rare look into her soul during this performance with Martin, ever the perfect partner.

The icing on the cake was the fact that this piece was performed to live music thanks to the Elaine Keating Live Music Endowment Fund. The music of Frédéric Chopin and Kurt Weil is beautiful as it is, but when it is accompanied by a live pianist, Kristen Kemp, and sopranos Stella Zambalis and Michelle Giglio, it’s even more striking.

“There Where She Loved” was presented along with Renato Paroni’s “Rococo Variations” and John Cranko’s “Pineapple Poll.” The entire program ended up being a bit long, but was entertaining, nonetheless.

“Rococo Variations” is another ballet set in the neoclassical style with picture-perfect tutus. A large female corps de ballet is led by a female soloist, danced by Haruka Katagi, with two demi-soloists, Mizuki Fujimoto and Rita Duclos, who performed pas de deux with Miquel Piquer and Rhodes, respectively.

Paroni’s choreography intertwines Russian character dance steps into the classical sequences, giving the corps and pas de deux an extra-special flair much like the choreography of George Balanchine. Piquer always excites the audiences with his multiple pirouettes and, in “Rococo Variations,” he didn’t disappoint. Duclos did a nice job in her pas de deux with Rhodes. Although Katagi’s turns didn’t get off to a good start in the beginning of the piece, she pulled it off in the finale with a sequence of 24 fouetté turns.

“Pineapple Poll” is a charming and amusing ballet by Cranko and set to music by Sir Arthur Sullivan, which preceded Gilbert and Sullivan’s hit, “H.M.S. Pinafore.” With delightful sets and costumes on loan from the Birmingham Royal Ballet, hardly anything could wreck the production of this cutesy comedy. However, a musical miscalculation did plague the opening-night performance of “Pineapple Poll,” causing the music to skip and the dancers to jump to different pieces in the choreography. Kudos go to the dancers who did a terrific job of picking up right where the music skipped to, probably leaving much of the audience with nary a clue of any sort of a blip. This is not an easy task to accomplish, which proves the professional caliber of the dancers.

Martin was by far the best part of this production with his deadpan comedy as Captain Belaye, the local heartthrob from the H.M.S. Hot Cross Bun. His acting talents far surpass the other dancers, but they all managed to keep up well, like Wood as the fidgety Mrs. Dimple, Alexei Kondratyuk as the Red Sailor and the cute Saradelli, who was adorable in the lead role of Pineapple Poll.

— Anna Dearing

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