Sarasota Ballet: Metropolitan “shows dancers strength and versatility”

Kate Honea and Lucas Erni in George Balanchine's Theme and Variations. Photo by Frank Atura

The Sarasota Ballet program, Metropolitan, presented two treasures and a powerful new work in early December at the beautiful Sarasota Opera House. Sarasota is located on the west coast of Florida, and the next time you’re in the state it’s well worth a visit. The Sarasota Ballet was formed in 1987 and throughout the years has gained national and international acclaim – deservingly so.

Metropolitan is comprised of three works – each with a connection to New York City. Each is different in style and choreography and showed the strength and versatility of the Sarasota dancers.

First on the program was a new piece choreographed by renowned American Ballet Theatre’s  principal dancer Marcelo Gomes.  Dear Life, set to Beethoven, is a dying man’s ode to life in the form of a letter, Lines are projected on a screen -much as parts of his life are relived onstage.

Performed in four movements: ‘The Man,’ ‘His Love,’ ‘His Youth,’ and ‘His Memories,’ gives us glimpses of a full life – filled with a deep love, an experimental and joyful youth and tender memories of what once was.  Gomes infused the classical vocabulary with contemporary and playful steps – which often lent itself to humor.

Ricardo Rhodes, as The Man, gave a poignant performance as a man in the “golden glow”- the last look at life before death. HIs pas de deux with His Love – Victoria Hulland -was beautiful in its haunting tenderness. Dear Life may be a farewell but it is also an appreciation of life.

Illuminations ventured into another territory-one of the tormented and dreamlike world of poet Arthur Rimbaud and set to a score by Benjamin Britten. The Sarasota Ballet shines in this dark work. The dancers appear to be at ease and comfortable with the choreography of Sir Frederick Ashton.

This may have much to do with Director Iain Webb’s  deep knowledge of Ashton’s body of work.  Illuminations is a dramatic work which Ashton first set on the New York City Ballet in 1950. It displays a unique mixture of royalty, lovers and townspeople.

Rising above it all is the Poet -Ricardo Graziano -and his torment between his Sacred Love ( Amy Wood) and his Profane Love ( Ellen Overstreet). The dancing presents Ashton’s sculptural patterns and poses which are often mesmerizing. The ballet is a feast for the eyes and the dancers perform with passion.

The final piece on the program was George Balanchine’s iconic ballet Theme and Variations which premiered in 1947. Balanchine, along with Ashton, are often considered to be two of the most influential choreographers of the 20th century and it was a pleasure to see the Sarasota dancers effortlessly perform both styles.

Theme and Variations is a grand work, set to Tchaikovsky – and filled with steps which requires a high level of technique and a strong sense of musicality. The dancers did not disappoint. The piece builds to a marvellous polonaise with the entire cast. It was a fitting ending to an evening of impressive dancing.