Seventeen years ago, Sarasota Ballet répétiteur Margaret Barbieri commissioned then 20-year-old Christopher Wheeldon to choreograph a ballet for her touring company, Images of Dance, at the London Studio Centre.
Barbieri, a retired Royal Ballet dancer, was the company’s artistic director and the director of the studio’s classical graduate program. Wheeldon was a Royal Ballet dancer on the cusp of shocking the European dance world by leaving London to join the New York City Ballet. Barbieri had always loved Wheeldon’s dancing, but it was his flair for choreography at such a young age that grabbed her attention.
“I always thought, ‘What a talented boy. I’d love to get something of his,’” Barbieri says.
Although most budding choreographers might offer to compose a simple pas de deux, Wheeldon arranged “Con Brio,” a three-movement ballet for a full company. It was his first commissioned piece, and the resulting performances blew audiences away.
Barbieri wasn’t the only one who saw something special in the artist’s work. Shortly after “Con Brio” premiered, she read a review by renowned English dance critic Jann Parry, who forecasted Wheeldon’s rise to stardom.
Now one of the world’s most sought-after freelance choreographers, Wheeldon, the former resident choreographer of the New York City Ballet, has agreed to let Sarasota Ballet perform “There Where She Loved,” a number he created in 2000 for the Royal Ballet.
It is Sarasota’s first Wheeldon ballet and is part of a triple-bill program that includes repeat performances of Renato Paroni’s neo-classical “Rococo Variations” and John Cranko’s nautical folly “Pineapple Poll.”
Performed to songs by Chopin and Kurt Weill, the ballet includes live vocals by sopranos Michelle Giglio and Stella Zambalis, whom audiences might recognize as the witch from this season’s “Hansel and Gretel” at the Sarasota Opera House.
“It’s very inventive and enjoyable,” Barbieri says. “It’s not all light and it’s not all heavy-heavy. It’s got a lot of contrasts in it.”
A Wheeldon ballet couldn’t come at a better time for Sarasota. The choreographer, who left his company, Morphoses, in February, recently announced that he plans to create a full-length “Alice in Wonderland” for the Royal Ballet next year.
“He’s a very desired choreographer,” Barbieri says. “I think we’re very lucky to be able to have this piece, and I hope he’ll continue to let us do more ballets and even, one day, fly down and stage one.”
If You Go
Sarasota Ballet will perform Renato Paroni’s “Rococo Variations,” Christopher Wheeldon’s “There Where She Loved” and John Cranko’s “Pineapple Poll” at 8 p.m. Friday, April 2 and at 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, April 3, at the Sarasota Opera House. For more information, call 351-8000 or visit www.sarasotaballet.org.
Contact Heidi Kurpiela at email@example.com.
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