World premieres are always exciting, but no one could have expected the sheer exhilaration experienced at the premiere of Will Tuckett’s “Changing Light,” set to the specifically commissioned music of composer Jeremy Holland-Smith. Director Iain Webb certainly saved the best for last in the program, which featured Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Birthday Offering” and company member Jamie Carter’s “Between Longing & Yearning.”
Holland-Smith’s music was incredibly moving, and Tuckett didn’t miss one note with his choreography, which sent goosebumps up your spine. Simple, yet stunning, costumes by Bill Fenner illustrated the changing light of a sunrise or sunset with yellow, oranges and blues. Warming the entire production was the masterful lighting of Aaron Muhl. It was simply one of the most exquisite productions the Sarasota Ballet has presented this year.
Tuckett’s choreography, which included intricate formations and dynamic group scenes featuring the entire cast dancing on stage together, took your breath away. In the second movement, three principal couples Danielle Brown and Ricardo Graziano, Victoria Hulland and Ricardo Rhodes and Kate Honea and Ricki Bertoni performed a beautiful pas de deux sequence, in which all three couples were on stage dancing the same choreography only a few beats behind each other — like in a musical round — with Emily Dixon and Anais Blake floating in and out of the three pairs with elegant movements.
At one point Brown, Hulland and Honea were skated en pointe in fourth position across the stage, as if on ice, by their partners. The final sequence of the ballet featured all the dancers on stage being partnered in grand jeté leaps in cannon across the stage. It was simply a breathtaking performance.
Ashton’s “Birthday Offering,” set to music by Alexander Glazunov, was a regal ballet that featured stunning sets and costumes on loan from The Royal Ballet. The piece features seven couples who sweep elegantly on stage in a mazurka circle with large sweeping arms and movements. The men then move to the back of the stage and watch with admiration, as the seven ladies each perform a solo representing each dancer’s style of dancing perfectly.
Sara Sardelli performed the Elaine Fifield solo that mimicked the steps and music that a music box ballerina would perform. Amy Wood’s Svetlana Beriosova solo was slow, with large sweeping movements suited to her tall statuesque and long lines. Honea leapt across the stage and bounded in the air in the Nadia Nerina solo. Sareen Tchekmedyian was flirty and sassy in the Beryl Grey solo. Finally, Hulland and Graziano were elegant in the difficult pas de deux that included multiple one-armed promenades in attitude derriere en pointé.
Jamie Carter’s “Between Longing & Yearning” was an improved-upon version of “Five Duets,” which he originally choreographed to Johann Sebastian Bach in 2011. With the additional cast members and refinements, the piece expertly displayed the dynamic relationships between men and women through five emotionally charged pas de deux.
The entire performance was an achievement for the entire company, firmly resulting in the ever-improving talent of the Sarasota Ballet. Webb certainly should be proud.