Sarasota Ballet gifts dance fans with two unique ballets in latest production.
When Iain Webb became director of the Sarasota Ballet more than 10 years ago, he began mentioning his desire to bring Sir Frederick Ashton’s “The Dream” into the company’s repertoire.
Company dancers, staff and patrons waited with anticipation year after year in hopes that Webb would announce the ballet as part of the upcoming season.
The time has finally arrived. Ashton’s “The Dream,” performed this past weekend at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, certainly did not disappoint.
The “Dreams of Nature” program featured two distinct ballets: Ashton’s “The Dream” and David Bintley’s “‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café.”
First up, “The Dream.” The Sarasota Orchestra accompanied dancers under the enthusiastic direction of Ormsby Wilson for this version of Shakespeare’s “A Midsummer Night’s Dream,” condensed into one hour of entertaining dance.
Friday’s cast featured Victoria Hulland as Titania and guest artist Friedmann Vogel as Oberon. Hulland commanded the stage. Technically, she performed with lightness and precision and artistically, she had us convinced that she was unworldly royalty. The cast was outstanding, from the fairy corps de ballet moving splendidly as one to the comedic confusions of the four human lovers, Jamie Carter, Ricardo Graziano, Kate Honea and Amy Wood.
Ivan Duarte made an impressive Puck with leaps that hung in the air and lightning-speed footwork. Rik Bertoni’s hilarious interpretation of Bottom had him “on pointe” and even successfully seduced Titania. While Vogel’s balletic lines and presence were stunning to watch, it seemed like a missed opportunity not to cast one of the (very capable) Sarasota Ballet dancers as Oberon.
“‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café” opens with penguins bearing cocktail trays and delightful music by Simon Jeffes. Different half-human, half-animal endangered species enter and exit the stage as part of an almost eerie cabaret. The choreography, although less intricate than most in the Sarasota Ballet’s repertoire, was performed well.
Ryoko Sadoshima, normally cast in tutus and pointe shoes, showed her versatility as The Great Auk. Logan Learned made us all laugh and gasp with his energetic execution of the Texas Kangaroo Rat. Although the ballet was created in 1988, the underlying environmental message is timeless. Indeed, this production represents another milestone and “dream” come true for the Sarasota Ballet.