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Sarasota Ballet moves with beauty, freedom in 'Expressions' program

The best of British ballet came to Sarasota this weekend with pieces choreographed by late greats Frederick Ashton and Kenneth MacMillan.

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  • | 4:10 p.m. November 21, 2022
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Program Two of the 2022-2023 Sarasota Ballet season offered two company premieres and a fan favorite.

“Expressions” was comprised of Kenneth MacMillan’s “Danses Concertantes” paired with Frederick Ashton’s
“Dante Sonata” and “Rhapsody” all performed this past weekend at the Sarasota Opera House.

“Danses Concertantes,” one of Macmillan’s earliest works, is a plotless ballet set to Stravinsky music.

The dancers were adorned in bright unitards and spiked black wigs designed by Nicholas Georgiadis.

The choreography is jagged, sexy, and theatrical.

Principal dancers Danielle Brown and Ricardo Graziano paired perfectly in the duet; Brown was seductive and Graziano strong.

Sierra Abelardo, Anna Pellegrino, and Daniel Pratt were quirky and quick in the pas de trois. 

It is clear why “Danses Concertantes” helped establish MacMillan’s choreographic career; he was only 25 when "Danses Concertantes" was first performed by the Sadler's Wells Theatre Ballet in January of 1955.

Ashton’s “Dante Sonata” was created at the beginning of World War II, with the Children of Light and the Children of Darkness potentially representing the struggles of opposing sides. The "Dante Sonata" was danced to music by Franz Liszt.

The women had loose hair and bare feet, unusual for an Ashton ballet but added to the dramatic effect.

Macarena Giménez and Sarasota Ballet move through Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody. (Courtesy photo by Frank Atura.)
Macarena Giménez and Sarasota Ballet move through Frederick Ashton's Rhapsody. (Courtesy photo by Frank Atura.)

The entire cast performed with great momentum on Friday evening with principal dancers Brown, Graziano and Marijana Dominis as the standouts. The ballet was very well received based on the standing ovation during curtain calls.

From the Program Notes, “Ashton’s Rhapsody creates a dazzling dialectic between Russian virtuosity and English elegance.”

“Rhapsody” was created by Ashton in 1980 as an 80th birthday gift to the Queen Mother and set to Rachmaninov’s "Rhapsody on a Theme of Paganini." "Rhapsody" was Ashton’s final major work and featured Mikhail Baryshnikov and Lesley Collier in its world premiere at the Royal Opera House.

The Sarasota Ballet first performed "Rhapsody" in 2018.

This weekend, principal dancer Macarena Giménez and soloist Yuki Nonaka danced an unforgettable central pas de deux.

Giménez, who previously danced at Argentina's Teatro Colón before joining the Sarasota Ballet this year, is outstanding, brilliantly musical, full of grace and breath of movement.

She and Nonaka, 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 footwork and free-flowing upper bodies. Live music by the Sarasota Orchestra — conducted by Barry Wordsworth, the principal guest conductor of the Royal Ballet — and assisted by guest pianists Cameron Grant and Vedrana Subotic added to the splendor of the evening.


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