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Arts and Entertainment Monday, Nov. 19, 2018 3 weeks ago

The Sarasota Ballet makes audiences laugh, pulls at their heartstrings

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'Masters of Dance' honored three of ballet choreograph's greatest: Sir Frederick Ashton, Jerome Robbins and Christopher Wheeldon.
by: Anna Dearing Staff Writer

Looking for romance, brilliant choreography and a laugh all in one place? The Sarasota Ballet brought it all with their performance Friday evening at The Sarasota Opera House. "Masters of Dance" featured company premieres of Sir Frederick Ashton’s "Rhapsody" and Jerome Robbins’ "The Concert," along with the revival of Christopher Wheeldon’s "There Where She Loved."

Katelyn May and Mathias Dingman dance Sir Frederick Ashton’s "Rhapsody." Photo by Frank Atura

"Rhapsody" was created as an 80th birthday gift to Queen Elizabeth and set to Rachmaninov’s "Rhapsody" on a Theme of Paganini. It was Ashton’s final major work and originally featured Mikhail Baryshnikov. Guest Artist Mathias Dingman joined the company for the Friday and Saturday evening performances. He and Katelyn May, in her best showing yet, danced a stunning central pas de deux. The principal couple, along with six men and women, performed nearly every step in the classical ballet repertoire. The dancers were perfectly synchronized and embraced the Ashton Style with fast detailed foot work and free flowing upper bodies.

Next up was "There Where She Loved," offering a more intimate experience. Music from Chopin and Kurt Weil was played by Cameron Grant on solo piano with sopranos Michelle Giglio and Stella Zamballs. This ballet has previously been performed with the sopranos onstage, but this time they joined the pianist in the orchestra pit, allowing the audience to fully focus on the dancers. The stage was set with a simple backdrop and dim lighting as a range of emotions were presented. Christine Windsor danced among a group of male lovers in “Nanna Lied,” and was eventually left alone and nearly collapsed onstage. Her exquisite lines and seamless movements were ideal for the Wheeldon choreography. Samantha Benoit and Filippo Valmorbida represented young, sweet love in the “Wiosna” pas de duex. Danielle Brown, returning to the stage after more than a year off due to injury, performed the “Gdzie Lubi” solo with great gusto. “Je Ne T’aime Pas” was danced by Amy Wood and Ricardo Graziano in a climatic, heart-wrenching finale.

The Sarasota Ballet dances Jerome Robbins' "The Concert." Photo by Frank Atura

"The Concert" was a playful and fun way to end the evening. The comedy was perfectly timed by the dancers, who portrayed an eclectic group of concertgoers, and Grant playing Chopin onstage. The highlight was a group of waltzing ballerinas led by Kate Honea, who danced with numerous intentional and hilarious mistakes. Victoria Hulland, rarely featured in character roles, was the perfect mix of baby doll ballerina and seductress. The entire cast had the audience chuckling with this wonderfully wacky ballet.

Kudos to Director Iain Webb for once again putting together a terrific triple bill.

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