Celebrating his 10th season as director of the Sarasota Ballet, Iain Webb paired key reprisals with new premieres for the 2016-2017 opening performance.
Dominic Walsh’s “Wolfgang for Webb,” Antony Tudor’s “Continuo,” Ricardo Graziano’s “Sonata in Four Movements” and Joe Layton’s “The Grand Tour” were on the bill for the opening performance of the Sarasota Ballet’s 2016-2017 season.
The show was a mixture of key reprisals and new premieres celebrating the 10th season with Iain Webb as director.
As always, the program showcased a piece that would suit all different dance enthusiasts’ tastes — contemporary, lyrical, classical and Broadway-type story ballet — which highlights the varied strengths of the nationally acclaimed ballet company.
Walsh’s “Wolfgang for Webb” was one of the first pieces Webb commissioned for the Sarasota Ballet, and he thought it fitting as the opening act for his anniversary season. Not performed for seven years, it was refreshing to see this ingenious, contemporary piece, based on Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart’s life and set to his music, performed again.
“Wolfgang for Webb,” the first act of Walsh’s “The Trilogy: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart,” begins with a billowing piece of white silk engulfing the stage with different body parts moving to the music and jutting out of its holes. Ben Kay showed a new, confident maturity in his dancing as Mozart, yet retained a soft sense of movement and style. He again demonstrated this new strength as a partner in a pas de deux with Mozart’s muse, Victoria Hulland, which included complicated lifts, creating elegant lines.
Tudor’s “Continuo” was a lovely, lyrical piece set to Pachelbel’s “Canon in D.” With no scenery or plot and simple light blue costumes, one could concentrate on the choreography and dancing by the three couples: Ellen Overstreet and Ricardo Rhodes, Amy Wood and Jacob Hughes and Abbey Kay and Daniel Pratt. Like the title suggests, the choreography continues from couple to couple, and patterns emerge onstage among the dancers.
Featuring the first commissioned piece by the first resident choreographer (Walsh) of the Sarasota Ballet, it was no surprise to see a new Sarasota premiere from the ballet’s current resident choreographer and principal dancer, Ricardo Graziano. “Sonata in Four Movements” is set to John Knowles Paine’s Sonata in A minor, Op. 1 and premiered this summer at the 1932 Criterion Theatre in Bar Harbor, Maine.
Similar to “Continuo,” “Sonata in Four Movements” was also a plotless piece with no scenery but featured four couples. This piece featured the company’s strongest dancers — Christine Windsor, Victoria Hulland, Kate Honea and Elizabeth Sykes. These dancers made the quite complicated choreography look effortless and simple, proving that these dancers are elite professionals. Graziano must have known this, because the choreography showcased the women, giving them each their time to shine with solos and mini-pas de deuxs in the finale.
But the real star was Christine Windsor, who exuded endurance and elegance during a more than 7-minute pas de deux with Edward Gonzalez. Almost double the amount of time spent in a pas de deux, the two impressed with press lifts and catches. Windsor was poised as a principal ballerina in this piece, yet she’s surprisingly ranked as a coryphée.
Joe Layton’s “The Grand Tour,” set to music by Sir Noël Coward, and arranged by Hershy Kay, was the perfect piece to close the show, demonstrating both technical skill and humor in their acting abilities. Wood was absolutely heartwarming as the American Tourist aboard a cruise with the stars of film and stage. And Jamie Carter was perfectly poised as Coward with the sophisticated sultriness of Gertrude Lawrence (danced by Victoria Hulland) by his side.