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‘A Tribute to Ashton’ is a shining moment for ballet

Sir Frederick Ashton’s ‘Scènes de ballet’ and ‘The Two Pigeons’ showcased Sarasota Ballet’s artistry.

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  • | 1:01 p.m. March 13, 2017
Marcelo Gomes and Victoria Hulland in Sir Frederick Ashton'        s "The Two Pigeons." Photo Credit Frank Atura
Marcelo Gomes and Victoria Hulland in Sir Frederick Ashton' s "The Two Pigeons." Photo Credit Frank Atura
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The Sarasota Ballet reached a new level of artistry and excellence with its recent production of “A Tribute to Ashton,” featuring the U.S. premiere of Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Scènes de ballet,” as well as “The Two Pigeons.” 

The reprisal of the two-act romantic ballet, “The Two Pigeons,” was a nod to director Iain Webb’s 10th season with the company, since it was the first Ashton masterpiece Webb brought into the ballet’s repertoire.

This reprisal of “The Two Pigeons” was incomparable to previous productions — it was sensational. The addition of American Ballet Theatre’s principal dancer, Marcelo Gomes, performing the role of the Young Man as a guest artist seemed to bring a new energy and true professionalism to the entire cast, and they all performed the ballet to the utmost perfection.

Marcelo Gomes.  Photo by Frank Atura.
Marcelo Gomes. Photo by Frank Atura.

Gomes is a god onstage, commanding the stage in an effortless way with his flawless technique that he displayed through leaps and turns throughout the production. Yet his passion for dance, and this particular production, which he had never danced before, shined through with his wide range of emotions and expressions on full display. As a partner, his strong abilities must have been a tremendous joy for Victoria Hulland, as the Young Girl, and Kate Honea, as the Lead Gypsy Girl, to experience. His strength and ability as a dancer and performer seemed to infuse new life into both of these principal ballerinas.

This was a pinnacle performance for Hulland and possibility one of the highlights of her career. She danced the role of the Young Girl with a newfound assurance in both technique and stage presence. She was delightful and funny as she teased Gomes in the first act, often mimicking the movements of a pigeon with the pecking of her head, arms flapping behind her back as wings and flitting of her hands. She was full of emotion and passion in the final pas de deux, when the Young Man (Gomes) returns to her with live pigeon on his shoulder.

Kate Honea, Marcelo Gomes and Edward Gonzalez. Photo by Frank Atura
Kate Honea, Marcelo Gomes and Edward Gonzalez. Photo by Frank Atura

Act II’s Gypsy scene is the audience favorite, and it’s obvious why, with its flashy costumes and sheer number of dancers on stage at once dancing with high-energy kicks, jumps, snaps and claps. Honea was quite the seductress as the Lead Gypsy Girl tempting the Young Man (Gomes) away from the Young Girl and his artist studio to join them in their encampment. There is no one who can perform more dazzling shoulder shimmies than Honea.

This performance of “The Two Pigeons,” set to music by André Messager and performed by the Sarasota Orchestra conducted by Barry Wordsworth, was truly a shining moment for the Sarasota Ballet and serious salute to Webb, showcasing how far the dancers and the company have come.

The Sarasota Ballet in Sir Frederick Ashton's
The Sarasota Ballet in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Scénes de Ballet." Photo by Frank Atura

Ashton’s “Scènes de ballet” was a whimsical, abstract yet classical piece set to music by Igor Stravinsky. Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes led the cast that included four male soloists and a corps de ballet of 12 girls. Brown and Rhodes are a strong pair and have seemed to grow into a perfect partnership. Brown has a lovely lyricism and Rhodes radiates with bravado. The ballet included many different geometric formations that often changed and rotated different directions. One charming scene was when Brown was lifted up in retiré, where with each lift, her arms switched from an upward questioning movement to hands flicked down.


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