The Sarasota Ballet officially launched its 2018-2019 season with “Iconographic,” an evening featuring three major works each introducing the audience to a very separate and distinct picture of time and emotion.
When the company of radiant female dancers in white and gold tutus entered the stage adorned simply with chandeliers, I felt a sigh of relief come over me. At the conclusion of yet another difficult news week, punctuated with familiar but continuously unthinkable tragedies, the beauty, grace, and power of the enduring tradition of classical ballet is a cherished pleasure. The piece “Paquita” is itself a symbol of triumph, the stalwart remaining portion of a full length classic that was all but lost during the Russian Revolution.
Eight ballerinas, including newly promoted principal Katelyn May as well as seasoned star Ellen Overstreet, alongside newcomer Yuri Marques, made this rich classic relevant and resonant. May and Marques were truly magnificent; and May must have set a record for perfect pirouettes executed seemingly effortlessly.
“Paquita” was an example of what Sarasota Ballet does best – carefully casting dancers and introducing new and returning audiences to how enjoyable a work of classic ballet can be. The dancers worked with Galina Samsova, a retired Russian ballet dancer, deriving yet another key to Sarasota Ballet’s success, bringing in treasured dancers who themselves have worked with ballet royalty to ensure the work is executed as intended. This access to renowned performers truly sets our local company apart.
Next up was resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano’s masterful modern piece “Symphony of Sorrows.” Many of the same dancers from “Paquita” made a nearly dizzying transformation from performing in a joyful classic to a modern tragedy with only a brief intermission in between. The dancers conveyed the misery of loss through every ounce of their athletic bodies. While it was difficult for me to go on that journey with them, because I was longing for lighter fare; it is clear that Graziano’s depth as a choreographer is growing every year and it was easy to see why the company chose to showcase this piece this summer at New York City’s renowned Joyce Theatre.
Finally, Sarasota Ballet staged “Appalachian Spring” – a classic by Martha Graham, the founding mother of contemporary dance in America. The chance to stage a work like “Appalachian Spring” is a bit like being offered the right to care for your grandmother’s most prized collection of fine china. It is an honor to be entrusted to perform a piece of this stature, and the Sarasota Ballet was up to the task. The dancers, including principals Kate Honea (the Bride) and Ricardo Graziano (the Husbandman), appeared entirely comfortable in Graham’s formalistic style. Jamie Carter as the Revivalist truly reveled in his role; and the entire cast truly embodied the piece, which provided a realistic celebration of Americana. Once again, “Appalachian Spring’s” ode to our roots examined the pioneering spirit which defines America was a lovely antidote for trying times.