Hot, hot hot – Sarasota Ballet Turns in One of its Finest Performances of the Decade

“Redefined Movement” began with “Les Rendezvous” – a gorgeous, frothy confection by Sir Frederick Ashton that, as Marie Kondo would say, truly sparks joy. Dreamy crisp white costumes were punctuated with pink ribbons on the female dancers and blue accents on the males. This was also the first of three performances by relative newcomer Ivan Spitale who, even sharing the stage with the glorious Marcelo Gomes, was truly the MVP of the night. His height and carriage made a splash from the first moment he arrived on stage. Another standout in the opening number was the darling Samantha Benoit whose infectious smile lit up the stage.

The Sarasota Ballet in Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Les Rendezvous” (photo by Frank Atura)

The highlight of the evening was the Sarasota Ballet’s tour-de-force rendition of one of my favorite modern dance pieces of all time “Brandenburgs” by the world-famous choreographer Paul Taylor, whose recent death left an enormous hole in the modern dance world. I used to attend Paul Taylor performances annually in New York City, and “Brandenbergs” set to Bach’s Brandenberg Concertos was frequently on the bill as a standard favorite.

The last time the company performed a Paul Taylor piece called “Company B” in 2012, I felt as though the dancers were a bit behind the music. But eight years have passed; and the Sarasota Ballet is in rarefied air these days. It is quite an honor to have the opportunity to perform “Brandenbergs” not to mention having heavyweight Gomes join the company for this amazing piece.

Gomes clearly relished performing with the company, especially the stunning trio Ellen Overstreet, Katelyn May, and Danielle Brown. He watched the three like a proud papa as each organically fit Taylor’s modern vocabulary within their own unique styles. Overstreet is the ingénue with long, sinewy limbs and billowing grace; May is spritely and lovely, moving with utmost precision; and Brown is the matriarch of the group who brings maturity and sensuality to every role she portrays, especially this piece.

The Sarasota Ballet and Marcelo Gomes (photo by Frank Atura)

The three women clad in dark green were joined on stage by five talented male dancers in lighter green together with Gomes, who was frequently motionless while the company danced swiftly around him. The cast brought so much joy to the performance, and the breathless audience jumped to their feet at the end, as if a valve was released with the massive amount of energy pulsating through the theater.

Finally, “I Napoletani” by the gifted choreographer Dominic Walsh was quite an unusual piece. The opening called “Stabat Mater” was absolutely stunning when nearly naked male and female dancers donned tulle tutus. Their undulating bodies stayed earthbound with incredibly sophisticated movement. Again, Spitale’s performance was noteworthy as he demonstrated epic proficiency with Walsh’s unique choreography. Following “Stabat Mater,” the remainder of the piece became more traditional celebrating Italian culture. Bertoni’s elastic dancing demonstrated his outstanding skill as a performer. A wonderful new performer, Emelia Perkins, an apprentice performer, made a splash in her duet with Ricardo Graziano, who himself had a gorgeous solo to conclude the evening in “O Sole Mio.”

Danielle Brown and Marcelo Gomes (photo by Frank Atura)

For fans of the Sarasota Ballet, “Redefined Movement” was a thrilling evening that showcased the tremendous talent that Iain Webb, Artistic Director, continues to attract to the company. It is always a delight to see world-class principal dancer Gomes who continues to elevate everyone with whom he shares the stage. Finally, some of the newcomers including Spitale and Perkins as well as fan favorites such as Overstreet and Brown helped make this one of the best performances in recent memory.

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