Wow. What a season. The 2011-2012 season for the Sarasota Ballet seems to be its best yet. And it’s quite fitting for Director Iain Webb’s fifth anniversary at the helm. From George Balanchine’s “Diamonds” to Twyla Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs” and everything in between, the Sarasota Ballet dancers danced their way through a near-perfect season and closed it with a bang with the final show of the season: “Theatre of Dreams,” featuring the choreographic talents of its own dancers — Ricki Bertoni, Jamie Carter, Ricardo Graziano, Kate Honea and Octavio Martin.
All five dancers proved their talents extend beyond dancing ability with their display of choreography — some of whom choreographed for the first time and others for their second. But choreographing a ballet goes far beyond just the steps: Each dancer had to find the perfect music, help design costumes (Carter even sewed his own headpieces) and provide input for the scenery and lighting design.
Graziano started out the season with his first choreographic work, “Shostakovich Suite,” a neoclassical, tutu ballet, and ended the season with “Symphony of Sorrows,” a contemporary piece set to music by Henryk Górecki. The two ballets couldn’t be more different, but both were incredibly beautiful in their own rights, showcasing Graziano’s diverse choreographic skills.
“Symphony of Sorrows,” was a dark, deep, emotionally charged piece with stark sets, a dark curtain at the back from which the dancers weaved in and out, and dimly lit light bulbs that dangled from above. The limited set and plain black costumes let the dancers’ movements and raw emotion overwhelm the stage.
Graziano demonstrated the five stages of grief through five couples. Sara Scherer displayed denial during many lifts by Bertoni and contracted her knees into her stomach in mid air as if feeling gut-wrenching pain. Logan Learned helped Honea contain her anger by restraining her arms behind her back and promenading her off-balance in a half-circle before taking her airborne in a grande plié in seconde position. Danielle Brown bargained with Simon Mummé in upside-down lifts while seeming to run away. Ricardo Rhodes supported Christine Peixoto in a gorgeous pas de deux, during which Peixoto’s depression morphs into a sense of numbness, with Rhodes seemingly able to mold her pliant body. Finally, Miguel Piquer brought Rita Duclos to acceptance after an amazing moment where Duclos almost runs sur les pointes in ballet slippers to Piquer, who was waiting patiently in grande plié in seconde position.
Bertoni’s choreographic debut, “Hip 2 Be Square,” was an outstanding modern piece. Inspired by a cubist painting by Ernesto Barreto and combined with electronic music by Justice & Deadmau5, Bertoni costumed his female dancers in colorful hoodies, gym shorts and athletic knee-high tube socks; his male dancers wore the same in full-on black. The dancers moved around the stage with springing movements and circling arm movements that created cubic patterns. An all-male dance showcased Learned’s turning and jumping abilities. In the finale, Nicole Padilla was lifted in a complete full-circle before the entire cast finished in a cubist formation. It was quite a show.
Honea’s “Headlines” was pure joy to watch and elicited giggles and cheers from both the audience and the dancers. A jazzy, theatrical piece, set to various musicians from the ’50s and ’60s, it showcased the different relationship woes of women — all interwoven with a newspaper theme. Obviously tailored for Sarasota, the flashing headlines on the screen displayed humorous, local themes that were depicted through the music and dancing as it relates to our town — real estate flipping, ponzi schemes and “Single in Sarasota.”
Sara Sardelli was a sassy, single girl “Looking For a Man” with Carter, Rhodes and Mummé, who easily tossed around the sprightly Sardelli in lifts, grande sissonne ouverte and chassé sauté. Peixoto was absolutely adorable as the woman standing by her man in “I’m Gonna Stay.” Peixoto perfectly pouted as she hung on tight to Graziano’s legs as he dragged her off stage. Duclos and Learned were hilarious in “Too Many Secrets,” in which Duclos chastises the cheating Learned with ballonné kicks to the groin and slaps to the face in soutenu. Honea’s choreography was clever and reflective of her dancing style.
Also on the program was Carter’s “Holiday Overture” set to Elliott Carter’s “Holiday Overture.” It was a Balanchine-inspired neoclassical piece that featured Abigail Henniger and her incredible extensions. Martin also got to refine “On the Outside,” which he choreographed two years ago and set to Argentine tango music by Astor Piazzolla and Mikael Jöback. Emily Dixon was beautiful and sensual as the lead and wowed audiences as she climbed a human mountain of men.
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