The Sarasota Ballet closed out its 25th anniversary season with Christopher Wheeldon's "The American" and Sir Frederick Ashton's "A Wedding Bouquet" and "Jazz Calendar."
Closing out the 25th anniversary season, Sarasota Ballet’s Director Iain Webb proved once again a master of programming, pairing three quite different yet complementary ballets in the final performances at the Sarasota Opera House. The show included Christopher Wheeldon’s lyrical and lovely “The American,” and Sir Frederick Ashton’s quirky “A Wedding Bouquet” and the jazzy “Jazz Calendar,” which were all performed to live music by the Sarasota Orchestra conducted by Ormsby Williams.
Set to Antonín Leopold Dvorák's “The American Quartet,” which was played by string quartet, Wheeldon’s “The American” plays tribute to the American Plains with dancers in simple gold-orange costumes that made them look like reeds of wheat grass and a set that featured a rising and setting sun and moon over the field.
Performed by five couples, the choreography calls for many sequences that begin and end with a circle in the center of the stage. One scene, where the couples are in a diagonal, the boys partner the girls in a continuous movement of undulating arabesque relevés making the dancers really look like amber waves of grain. The five couples were adept partners and executed a difficult series of saut de basque grand jeté lifts. Nicole Padilla showed off her quick footwork with a series of fast-pace échappé relevés.
Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes performed a lyrical and romantic pas de deux that included so many lifts it seemed as though Brown never once left Rhodes’ strong and capable arms.
“A Wedding Bouquet” was quirky, fun, amusing yet confusing, but delightful in that special way only Ashton can choreograph. The ballet mirrors the style in which Ashton choreographed “Façade” where he plays on human folly with humor. The ballet is done with narration (which doesn’t always quite match up to what is happening on stage) and the Sarasota Ballet was lucky to have Barry Wordsworth, principal guest conductor of The Royal Ballet, as the narrator.
The ballet, set to music by Lord Berners with stunning set designs and costumes by Berners as well, centers around a wedding where the bridegroom is embarrassed at the number of guests who happen to be his former lovers — most of all, Julia, who has lost her mind after being “ruined” by the groom. Ellen Overstreet, was excellent as the crazy ex-girlfriend, Julia, throwing herself at the groom, Juan Gil, with despair. Gil danced the role of the groom expertly as the conniving yet uncomfortable groom set to marry his bride, Victoria Hulland, who had no knowledge of the relationships the groom had with so many of his guests.
Kristianne Kleine danced the role of the serious and sharp maid Webster with fervor constantly running en pointe with purpose. Christine Windsor danced flirtatiously as Violet trying to win the heart of Ernest (Logan Learned), only to be dejected. Samantha Benoit delighted the audience with her dainty movements as Pépé, the tutu-wearing dog. But hands down, Danielle Brown stole the entire show as Josephine, who drinks so much champagne she gets kicked out of the wedding. Brown was downright hilarious as she toppled over tables and perfectly portrayed a happy drunken wedding guest — we all know what that looks like, right?
Ashton’s “Jazz Calendar” is a kaleidoscope of color with whimsical sets and costumes by Derek Jarman that includes helmets, fringe, unitards and more. Created in the late '60s, one must wonder if Ashton was experimenting with LSD while listening to Sir Richard Rodney Bennett’s syncopated score when he dreamed up this psychedelic ballet based on an English nursery rhyme, “Monday’s Child.”
The entire cast performed with perfection. Ellen Overstreet was sultry as she showed off her extensions in Monday’s Child. Kristianne Kleine created shapes and formations with Alex Harrison and Michael Burfield in between lifts and turns in Tuesday’s Child.
Christine Windsor was full of soul and sorrow as she was lifted in air on top of her lizard-dressed men in Wednesday’s Child. Thursday’s Child had a bowler-hat topped Juan Gil directing traffic among a bubble-capped sextet. Danielle Brown and Ricardo Graziano were connected in their color-blocked red and blue unitards in Friday’s Child pas de deux. David Tlaiye was a stern ballet master in Saturday’s Child. And Elizabeth Sykes was as spirited and fun as her multicolored fringed unitard leading the entire cast in the Sunday’s Child finale.