Not all surprises are good surprises. That was the case for the final performance of the Sarasota Ballet's 20th anniversary season — unfortunate for such a celebratory year.
The program seemed haphazard with new choreography by Sarasota Ballet dancers — George Birkadze's "Farandole,” Octavio Martin's "Orpheus and Eurydice" and Jamie Carter's "Five Duets" — a piece by FSU/Asolo Conservatory's Meg Eginton, new and old choreography by Dominic Walsh and George Balanchine's "Tarantella." There were too many things on the menu and nothing quite pleased the palate.
Of the new choreography, the best piece was Jamie Carter's "Five Duets" set to music by J.S. Bach. Reminiscent of Balanchine's "Four Temperaments," the contemporary piece was set on four couples who, in turn, performed five pas de deux. The duets featured intermingled choreography offset with long lines, lifts and extensions. The dancing was accentuated with sleek gray and neon yellow leotards designed by Bill Fenner and simple staging of a black scrim that was raised and lowered to different heights during each duet.
Rita Duclos demonstrated incredible turned-out straddle lifts with partner Riki Bertoni in the first duet. Abigail Henninger wowed the audience with high arabesques and more than 180-degree developpes in a la seconde in her pas de deux with Stephen Windsor. Christine Peixoto and Ricardo Rhodes' duet displayed sensual overtones. But Carter's duet for two men — Logan Learned and Riki Bertoni — really knocked it out of the park. The choreography implied no sexual tones; it only demonstrated the beauty, power and strength of two men dancing together. It was tasteful choreography and beautifully danced by Learned and Bertoni.
Birkadze's "Farandole" was a high-energy piece, featuring Sara Sardelli and Ricardo Graziano. The short-and-sweet piece had Sardelli and Graziano in the finale whipping off fouetté and a la second turns.
Martin's "Orpheus and Eurydice" was reminiscent of Martin's own dramatic personality. The Furies — Emily Dixon, Emily Woods and Casey Dolson — were fabulous as the sultry, dark and evil guardians of the underworld.
Dominic Walsh's pieces were somewhat of a disappointment. Walsh is usually incredibly inventive in his choreography with his use of musicality. His world premiere of "Time Out of Line" seemed to include great
individual snippets of creative movements, which were repeated over and over again in cannons throughout the entire 12-person cast. Quite honestly, the repetition on stage was distracting.
On the other hand, the world premiere of "Clair de Lune," set to Debussy's music of the same name, was a solo for Walsh's dancer, Domenico Luciano. It was a nice piece that accentuated Luciano's amazing lyrical lines and movement. Also, interesting was Walsh's "The Dying Swan,” performed by Danielle Brown, which was more of a dramatic piece.