It helps to have friends in high places; and Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri have ably used their considerable ballet pedigrees to great effect in the Sarasota Ballet decade of Webb. The company scored another major coup this past weekend as the first United States company to perform “Scenes de Ballet” by choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton and was joined by the larger than life ballet star Marcelo Gomes, principal of the American Ballet Theatre. The “Tribute to Ashton” event was everything I hoped it would be and more.
“Scenes de Ballet” was absolutely gorgeous, and the intricate patterns created by our beloved Sarasota Ballet dancers made the production a treasure for our local audience. I would love to see the piece again on a different bill, because it is so wonderful as a stand-alone ballet. I must say though that I was “all in” with excitement for Ashton’s “Two Pigeons” with Gomes in the role of the artist. Nearly every image of the “Tribute” night revolves around the famed second piece.
I have seen Baryshnikov perform a few times, as well as Angel Corella, Ethan Stiefel, and now Gomes twice this year. Gomes is in the stratosphere among world-class dancers – he is absolutely riveting on stage. He never veers into caricature but instead creates a theatrical performance that takes you beyond the simple story to the depth of his character. And did I mention those extensions, those lifts! He was also a gracious guest honoring and paying his own tribute to the company both during the performance by perfectly partnering leading ladies, Victoria Hulland and Kate Honea, and also in his final bow directed to the company with his back to the audience covered in well-earned sweat.
Hulland was radiant and graceful with movements far more in common with a dove than a pigeon; and Honea lit up the stage as Hulland’s foil. Logan Learned was charming and beguiling as a gypsy thief, and at one point he was joined by rows of female dancers, like the stage version of “Logan’s ladies,” (the fond nickname of the dancer’s fans), providing a lovely frame for the petite powerhouse. I also enjoyed spotting the fabulous Christopher Hird, director of education, having his pocket picked by Learned in a short cameo.
I am dreading that the conclusion of the ballet season is rapidly approaching. With only one show left, I will have to rely on my fond memories of the Webb 10th season to get me through the long, steamy summer! Next up De Valois, Balanchine and Robbins April 28th-30th.