Sarasota Ballet decided to end its 2018-2019 season with a jewel of a ballet, Giselle. However, it was not just any production of Giselle. Artistic Director Iain Webb’s British influence in this small Florida city gives Sarasota Ballet a highlighted, unique repertoire, presenting pieces from Sir Frederick Ashton and other renowned British choreographers. This time, Sir Peter Wright’s Giselle was the highlight of the weekend at the Sarasota Opera House.
The theatre, a bigger venue than their home, was sold out, and I waited with an excited audience. It was announced that Sir Peter Wright was sitting in the audience, and he received warm applause along with gasps of surprise and excitement.
I was thrilled to find, after watching the performance, that Sir Peter Wright couched and staged the production during their rehearsal times. The beautiful scenery caught my attention: the village of Giselle was beautifully exposed. I was glad to see (and listen) to the orchestra, as it always adds that spark needed in a theatre collaborating with a ballet.
Ricardo Rhodes and Danielle Brown interpreted Albrecht and Giselle, respectively. These young dancers, principals of the company, brought their important characters to life with excellent interpreted pantomime. All gestures were clear and concise for the audience to understand during the whole story. Ivan Spitale’s interpretation of Hilarion was also easy to understand and enjoyable to the audience as a determined character in the story. I was glad to see that not only the principal’s pantomime was clear, but all the dancers’ interpretations of gestures and story were as well, even though the company looked young.
The first act ran smoothly. The young corps de ballet was precise and musical. They seemed relaxed at times of acting, and technically detailed when in lines and patterns. I have to highlight the excellent performance of Wright’s famous peasant Pas de Six, danced by Katelyn May, Ivan Duarte (as the main couple), Elizabeth Skyes, Yuri Marques, Christine Windsor and Nicolas Moreno. Their technique, clarity and musicality brought a memorable moment during the first act.
You could see the difference between the villagers and the court, both in costume design (which was excellently done for both acts). Although the character dancers looked young (including Giselle’s mother, Berthe), all the pantomime of the company was clear, as before.
I always love to see how many different Giselles I can watch depending on the dancer interpreting her. Ms Brown’s smiling Giselle was happy, cheerful, and carefree – different from the typical delicate Giselle. Her connection with Mr Rhodes was clear. I enjoyed her desperate ‘mad scene’ at the end of the first act. Her risky movements and gestures, though simple, gave a clear view of Giselle’s last-gasp and hopeless breaths.
I enjoyed gazing at a spine-chilling scenery for the second act, and the company delivered this feeling of a frightening forest. Janae Korte interpreted the sour Myrtha, Queen of the Wilis, with an enjoyable performance as she highlighted Myrtha’s personality – grave and royal, but with the delicacy of a Wili. The corp de ballet’s performance continued to be strict and definite.
Ms Brown’s Wili Giselle was that of a delicate, romantic ghost. This time, her connection with Mr Rhodes as sad, tired Albrecht in the forest was stronger. Mr Rhodes’ variation was excellently performed. He received gasps from the audience every time Albrecht’s double tours ended dramatically on the floor.
I was happy to watch such an important romantic ballet at this small Florida city, especially a production especially delivered directly from the Royal Ballet. The audience thanked Sir Peter Wright’s with a strong standing ovation as he bowed with the company. The Sarasota Ballet definitely ended this season with a flourish.