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If it’s possible, the Sarasota Ballet just stepped up another notch with “Moving Identities” ushering in 2018, which is certain to be an epic year on many fronts.
The evening program was truly spectacular and sealed the ballet’s fate to rank highly among some of the best traveling companies I have seen in my decades as a lover of dance. The company has successfully combined some of the strongest veteran dancers such as Ricardo Graziano (2010) and Victoria Hulland (2007) with new standout recruits like Katelyn May (2017) and Weslley Carvalho (2016); and the result is magic on stage.
The first piece of the evening, Paul Taylor’s “Airs” simply must become a part of the ballet’s touring repertoire. I was taught years ago in ballet that you should not hear the dancers’ slippers hit the stage, and the cast of "Airs" was whisper quiet performing the intricate choreography set to the music of George Frederick Handel. Additionally, the light blue ethereal costumes with golden wavy accents were reminiscent of Sarasota’s world-renowned beaches. One of my favorite things about living here is the ease of going from the beach to the theater without missing a beat, and “Airs” truly exemplifies what is so unique about Sarasota.
Several years ago, the Sarasota Ballet first began performing Paul Taylor’s work, and I remember that the company seemed rushed by the piece, which I had seen a few times performed in New York. Any sense of that is entirely gone now, and I was thrilled to see a company I know so well perform a Paul Taylor classic with ease and sophistication. I can hardly wait to see “Airs” again.
Next was “Valsinhas” choreographed by Graziano in 2013 and now performed by separate all female or all male casts alternating performances. Starting out a year in which more women are running for office than ever before and seeing “Valsinhas” with an all-female cast was timely and relevant, as I am sure the all female cast for the warrior piece “Troy Game” (performed later in the weekend) was as well, perhaps even more so. Women have been speaking out with grace and power; and Graziano’s piece requires both in spades. “Valsinhas” features 25 waltzes, with each waltz less than a minute in length, allowing the dancers to be playful and whimsical while demonstrating their strength and agility as well. The cast, including May, Hulland, Kate Honea, Kristianne Kleine were tremendous. I was especially impressed with Samantha Benoit’s charming performance and hope to see more of her in leading roles.
Finally, the climactic piece of the evening was “Troy Game,” choreographed by Robert North. This piece, based on a Greek frieze coming to life, was cheeky and funny while showcasing the powerhouse cast. Logan Learned’s sense of humor is always incorporated into his roles, and it was so nice to see Carvalho match Learned’s trademark dimple-cheeked grins and knowing glances with his own. Ricki Bertoni demonstrated the strength and breadth of his performance capabilities coming out from behind his many costumes as character principal. Also noteworthy among the whole fantastic cast was Patrick Ward who quickly shot up my radar following his performance in “Troy Games.”
Next up “Ballet Hispanico” and “The Dream” at the end of February and early March. With only three shows left in the season, there is much to savor before the long ballet-free summer.