Director Iain Webb has brought a masterpiece to the Sarasota Ballet — Sir Frederick Ashton’s “La Fille mal Gardée.” This classic, two-act, story ballet is like none other: It isn’t a fairy tale and no one dies a tragic death. It’s purely a joyful, humorous tale of a normal farm girl who ends up living happily ever after. Who wouldn’t enjoy that? Plus, add to that gorgeous sets and costumes, live animals and a full-blown orchestra, and you’ve got a winning combination.
What took this production to platinum status was the exemplary cast of dancers. The dancers all performed Ashton’s brilliant choreography with what seemed like the utmost joy and exuberance. And the leading cast was spot on; perfect … everything you could ever want as the characters of Lise, Colas, Alain and Widow Simone.
Kate Honea danced the role of “The Wayward Daughter,” Lise, while Ricardo Graziano was her dashing love-interest, Colas. Honea danced the role of her life. She danced the incredibly technically challenging role with ease and grace and infused Lise’s character with oodles of humor and girl-like adoration for Colas. Graziano, ever the perfect partner, was right in sync with Honea with his own flawless technique and fabulous acting abilities.
The pair enchanted the audience during a ribbon pas de deux, in which they took turns spinning in and out of a long ribbon intertwining them. Then they used the ribbons as reins on each other, mimicking a horse and carriage. They, then, elegantly weaved in and out of another ribbon star held by Lise’s eight friends that ultimately left Honea in the middle of the ribbon wheel en pointe in attitude derriére. The friends proceeded to promenade her by the ribbons.
Honea and Graziano each performed a multitude of jumps, leaps, turns and tricks during their own respective solos and codas during the ballet. Most memorable were the many times Honea performed ballottés en avant en pointe seemingly at the speed of light.
Also quite notable were the absolute brilliant comedic performances by Ricki Bertoni as Widow Simone, Lise’s mother, and Logan Learned as Alain, the bumbling son of a wealthy vineyard owner, whom Simone wishes Lise to marry. Bertoni was absolutely hilarious as Simone, encouraging Lise to churn butter, then spanking her on the bottom when Lise slacked off. Learned was full of silliness, but made the audience warm to Alain with his funny antics.
Another memorable scene was the clog dance performed by Danielle Brown, Christine Peixoto, Emily Dixon and Sara Scherer, along with Bertoni as Widow Simone. The four girls donned clogs over their pointe shoes and managed to dance and create beautiful and humorous rhythms.
As mentioned before, this production was perfect in every way. It was as much a joy to watch, as it seemed it was to perform. We can’t wait to see it on the season bill again.
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