Sarasota Ballet’s 25th Season Opener Was the Stuff Dreams Are Made Of!

The Sarasota Ballet’s season opener “Theatre of Dreams,” was a refreshing and delightful beginning to the 25th anniversary season. This production showcased the immense talent of the company as well as the burgeoning development of a corps of choreographers for a company whose star is on a meteoric rise.

I appreciated the opportunity to see a variety of numbers in one evening highlighting both the principals and some newer stars. The next few performances will showcase classics, particularly December’s Nutcracker, the most familiar of ballets albeit with a special Sarasota circus twist. So, it was clever indeed for Iain Webb to begin the season with a tasting menu of dancing delights.

I knew I would enjoy Gitana Galop by principal Kate Honea, because I loved 2010’s “Percolator” that she choreographed inspired by her husband’s coffee shop Fuel. It was an absolutely gorgeous number with beautiful costumes, light and lithe movement, and the dancers were clearly enjoying themselves throughout this classic ballet.

Gabriela Poole was fantastic and was a model for keeping one’s cool when an ornamental part of her dress fell off – not in a Janet Jackson sort of way – but which would be distracting for a less skilled performer. Logan Learned is always a treat to watch, because he brings a level of enthusiasm and commitment to every performance that is certainly worthy of his fan club “Logan’s Ladies.” Edward Gonzalez rounded out the leads skillfully, and he and Learned offered a level of athleticism to their performances that was especially exciting to watch from the front row where I was seated.

The Blue Hour, choreographed by Alex Harrison, was a lovely short piece featuring Danielle Brown, one of my favorites whose beauty and kindness shines through every performance, and Ricardo Graziano, leading man extraordinaire, a wonderful asset to the company, who doubles as resident choreographer this season although none of his pieces were in Theatre of Dreams this time.

Hommage a Chopin, by Pavel Fomin, was also a lovely, simple, elegant piece; and it was wonderful to see Ricardo Rhodes highlighted. His athleticism and skill is wonderful to watch. I find myself reminiscing to earlier productions, particularly his lovely performance in Anne Frank, one of my favorite pieces by the Sarasota Ballet, also in 2010.

Ragtop, by Ricki Bertoni, was my least favorite performance of the evening; because the elements of the piece felt less polished than I am used to seeing from this beloved company. The dancers were set back on the stripped stage that I would have much preferred to see on a backstage tour than in the midst of the performance. The costumes, particularly the women’s black wigs, did not come together for me. Uma Thurman famously wore a black wig in Pulp Fiction, a cultural moment that ought not be replicated, particularly by an entire cast of women. This could be a really cool number with some tweaks of costume and backdrop as well as the dancers having more of an opportunity to really live in this style of dance.

But for me the highlight was Nebulous by Logan Learned. I loved watching the company nail this piece, entirely inhabiting this unique style of dance with reckless abandon, which was paired beautifully with Phillip Glass’s haunting music. It was wonderful to see the dancers span classical ballet and this beautiful modern style in one evening and is a wonderful harbinger for things to come this year. I hope to see much more of Learned both on stage and behind the scenes choreographing this season and beyond. Over the past several years, I have watched Learned flourish with the Sarasota Ballet from a smiling, roguish young person into a mature leading man with great chops as a choreographer as well. Perhaps this is the beginning of Learned’s career with his own company some day.

The next performance of the ballet cannot come soon enough – November 20 and 21st, the ballet will be premiering three pieces by the knights of the British ballet. You can go to www.sarasotaballet.org to learn more about the rest of the season and to snatch some of the few remaining seats to see this top-notch company perform.

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