Triple Bill – Balanchine and Ashton

Theatre Review: Sarasota Ballet  An Evening Inspired by Balanchine

The Sarasota Opera House is a hot spot during the 2013-2014 Sarasota Ballet season. Friday night Nov. 21st provoked women about town to slip into a silk dress and men into their best GQ look. Going to the Sarasota Opera House gave my antique-pink Max Mara dress a reason to slip off the hanger and onto me. It was the perfect opportunity to use the beaded purse that once belonged to my great-grandmother, given to me recently for my birthday. 

Ballet |ˈbalā, baˈlā|noun; an artistic dance form performed to music using precise and highly formalized set steps and gestures.

Sir George Balanchine’s; Serenade (the first original Ballet created in America by Balanchine) and Who Care’s, along with Sir Frederick Ashton’s; Illuminations (commissioned by Balanchine for the NYC Ballet), took to the stage for two night’s only. Magical is how I describe Serenade, a stage full of ballerina’s in white tutu’s, white stockings and the fairest of blue leatard, set behind a blue backdrop. Watching them I think of several little girls opening their jewelry music boxes all at once and seeing the ballerina dancing and spinning around. Their tutu’s just past the knee, gracefully flowing throughout each song, so perfectly; I was in awe. 

As was the four-year old girl in front of me, sitting on the edge of her seat the entire performance. I bet she was thinking how she would like to be just like them. Like my friend Robin Savage said, “I enjoyed it immensely. A snow globe coming to life. It brought back many childhood memories of going to the city with my mother.” Robin recalls, “I remember watching in awe and dreaming that perhaps one day I too would become a ballerina dancing with such grace on the stages of Broadway. I love the arts!”

Illuminations by Ashton is set to Benjamin Britten’s 1939 arrangement of Les Illuminations based on selected poems by Arthur Rimbaud. The live opera solo, costumes, characters and Alice-in-Wonderland like performance reflects the dark and destructive nature of Rimbaud’s poems. This is my favorite performance, it intrigues me and leaves me wondering if the rest of Ashton’s ballet’s are of similar stimulation. That alone will bring me back to the next one. The new year kicks off with Ashton in the spotlight, for the next three performances in a row. Sinfonietta; in January, Monotones I & II; in February, and in April; Birthday Offering.

The final performance of the evening is Who Care’s. The performers had an opportunity to do solos and duets’ together to Gershwin’s music such as, “Stairway to Paradise,” with Nicole Padilla and “S’ Wonderful,” with Ryoko Sadoshima & Eado Turgeman. It was beautiful,and after two and half hours I was ready to go. I would have been happy with seeing just the first two performances.

 It was a dazzling evening of entertainment. I can see why Sarasota Ballet is gaining national and international attention. Not only are the dancers precise and in sync, the company is working on a very small budget, and they are performing the most Ashton Ballet’s in the country.  The New York Times dance and theatre critic, Alastair Macaulay, noted “…The Sarasota Ballet has suddenly become America’s foremost exponent of Ashton Ballets.” With lectures, demonstrations and an array of eleven Ashton ballets, The 2014 Ashton Festival staged by The Sarasota Ballet honors the life and works of the Royal Ballet’s founding choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton (1909-1988). 

I haven’t attended more than a handful of ballet’s, but there is something unique about The Sarasota Ballet that will keep me coming back. Although the program;  An Evening Inspired by Balanchine, it was Ashton that made me a fan. Whether it’s December, January or February, I encourage you to see at least one show this season, perhaps you’ll become a fan too.

Inspired by the rich heritage that Sarasota shares with the Ringling Brother’s Circus, December 20-21 John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker will be performed by the Sarasota Ballet and accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra held at the Van Wezel Performing Art Center. Set in NYC, the freely adopted story follows a little girl (Clara) as she runs away to join the Ringling Circus in Sarasota, Florida. The performance intertwines history, dance and imagination. A nice spin on the classic Nutcracker, especially if you’ve seen it over and over. Go to SarasotaBallet.org to discover more about the most talked about Ballet led by Director; Ian Webb.

Photo Credit Top to Bottom

Victoria Hulland, Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes in George Balanchine’s Serenade – Photo credit Frank Atura

George Balanchine’s Serenade – Photo Credit Frank Atura

Ricardo Graziano, Ellen Overstreet and Amy Wood in Ashton’s Illuminations – Photo credit Frank Atura

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