The Sarasota Ballet presented a flawless production this past weekend: “Made in America,” which included George Balanchine’s “Donizetti Variations,” Will Tuckett’s “Spielende Kinder” and Johan Kobborg’s “Salute.” Even though each ballet was actually choreographed in America, each piece had an international theme: “Donizetti Variations” — Italian, “Spielende Kinder” — German, and “Salute” — Dutch.
The evening kicked-off with the cheerful and bright, “Donizetti Variations,” which featured principal couple Victoria Hulland and Ricardo Graziano flanked by three men and six girls in the corps de ballet. As mentioned earlier, the entire cast was impeccable throughout the entire piece with perfect Balanchine technique and style and enthusiastic stage presence.
Balanchine has the dancers dance with exuberance during the allegro sections that included quick jumps and hops en pointe. Then, during the more somber tones, the dancers took on more somber expressions, except for two quick interludes when Balanchine introuces comedic moments for Emily Dixon and Elizabeth Sykes to steal the spotlight.
Hulland and Graziano were a perfect pair, demonstrating the choreography with ease, including difficult combinations such as pirouettes from fifth position followed by Graziano partnering Hulland with a tour en l’air that started and ended with Hulland in plié en pointe. The Italian influence is seen in Hulland’s variation through Italian changements and pas de chats in the coda. Graziano, as usual, didn’t disappoint in the coda with a series of 16 pirouettes done on one leg with arms extended into second position.
Tuckett’s “Spielende Kinder,” set to music by Carl Orff, evoked delight just as it did last season. The ballet features a cast of 12 dancers highlighting children’s play at the schoolyard.
Standout sections included the pas de deux between Dixon and Ricardo Rhodes. Illustrating a first-love type of moment, Rhodes supported Dixon while her incredible extensions and long lines took over the stage. Logan Learned always draws cheers for his incredible tricks, and he did yet again during a solo where he performed multiple attitude turns, then immediately rolled to the floor only to spring up into the again. Rhodes reappeared during an enjoyable duet with Jamie Carter, in which they partnered each other in lifts and jumps. And Rita Duclos, Sara Sardelli, Sykes and Dixon charmed the audience in their playful schoolgirls dance.
Kobborg’s “Salute” was a Bournonville-style ballet set to music by Hans Christian Lumbye. The ballet was lighthearted and pleasant and not extremely technical, allowing the dancers to cultivate their character dancing, which they all did with ease.
Yet again, the entire cast nailed the steps called for in the choreography and performed a perfect piece. But the star of “Salute,” was undoubtedly Director Iain Webb as “The General.” From the second he pushed Graziano back onto the stage, forcing him to join the war, the mustachioed Webb commanded the stage as he led the men (and a cute cross-dressing girl, Sardelli) in the boys dance. He ordered his salutes to do push-ups, Bournonville cabrioles and even impressed his men (and the audience) with a double tour en l’air and a double saut de basque. He’s still got it, all right.