To the outward eye, “Les Rendezvous” would seem sugar and spice and everything nice — especially with the Bill Fenner-created costumes, which featured giant pink bows adorning the dancers’ heads and shoulders paired with floating white skirts and sleek white tights. But truly, the choreography is filled with technically difficult steps and sequences that fill the dancers’ daily ballet class. Most of these steps — assemblés, fouettés, sautés, sissonnes, emboîtés, soutenus — are incorporated into all ballets. But the extent that Sir Frederick Ashton included these steps would make any ballet dancer go weak in the knees … literally.
But none of them did. Not one of the Sarasota Ballet dancers failed in the technical department. They all attacked the steps with gusto and ease, from the principal dancers Kate Honea and Miquel Piquer (other shows featured Ashley Ellis with Ricardo Rhodes, Victoria Hulland with Ricardo Graziano and Mizuki Fujimoto with Yoohong Lee) down to the six couples that comprised the corps de ballet.
Honea and Piquer were perfect for the part of principal couple. Honea demonstrated that a technically difficult role could be performed with multiple facets — graceful and elegant combined with sharpness and velocity. Her sequence of piqué turns that ended with a flick of the leg in à la seconde twisting to an arabesque was impressive. Piquer, who never fails to astound with multiples of pirouettes, danced with grandeur during both petite allégro and grand allégro segments, with his grand jetés reaching unimaginable heights.
Finally, it’s impressive that Sara Sardelli, Logan Learned and Nicolo Centocchi did not fall into a massive heap at the end of the pas de trois that included a ridiculous amount of emboîtés and entrechats. Not a moment passed without the three dancers jumping around, which makes one recall visions of the four little swans in “Swan Lake.”
Broadway choreographer Joe Layton’s “The Grand Tour” was an entertaining and charming ballet about the antics aboard a holiday cruise attended by Hollywood stars, lively stowaways and an American spinster. The costumes and sets were just as lively as the characters who were expertly played by the cast.
Jamie Carter was perfectly poised as a smoking Noël Coward. Hulland channeled Gertrude Lawrence, while Honea pranced around as America’s sweetheart, Mary Pickford. Danielle Brown kept a sexpot pucker glued on her face as Theda Bara, and Ricki Bertoni was comical as George Bernard Shaw. Most hysterical was Piquer as Gertrude Stein. His role was so convincing he was even given a bouquet of flowers during the curtain call. But certainly the most charming of all was Amy Wood whose acting skills grew to a new level, showing the naïveté of an American tourist in awe of the celebrities around her.
The reprisal of the dramatic “The Rake’s Progress” was a successful one, however it seemed a little slow in between the two lighthearted ballets, “Les Rendezvous” and “The Grand Tour.” Octavio Martin, who starred as “The Rake,” is exceptional at playing roles that call for extreme drama.
The best scenes in “The Rake’s Progress” are “The Orgy,” where drunken dancing ensues with “ladies of the town” at the Rose Tavern, and “The Madhouse,” when The Rake goes insane. At the asylum, Martin was joined by his crazy crew: Carter, Learned, David Nava and Piquer, whose descent into madness was riveting.