Bravo to the Sarasota Ballet for an Outstanding Season Closer

The Sarasota Ballet closed out a rousing and joyous season back in the theater with a triple bill called “Serendipitous Movement.” Once again, Webb meticulously chose three pieces that paired well as an evening’s fare and showcased the company, who, because of two major retirements, were performing as an ensemble for the last time.

Victoria Hulland, principal, who has dedicated fifteen years of her life to the company, and Ryoko Sadoshima, a soloist who has also been a mainstay and my favorite Clara, announced their respective retirements. Hulland has been on fire this year, turning in some of her most memorable performances, including bringing her sultry style to the role of the mistress Erotia in “A Comedy of Errors” and as the leading principal of both “Serenade” and “Elite Syncopations” during the season closer. She has had so many tremendous roles over the years, but perhaps the most gripping was in “Marguerite and Armand,” the tragic love story that demanded major acting chops of Hulland, as the beautiful dancer who perished in the arms of Armand, principal Ricardo Graziano. The pairing of Hulland and Graziano has been magic time after time for more than a decade.   

As the dancers retire each year, it is hard to watch them go. We never truly got a fitting farewell to the dancers who retired during COVID when the company was performing digitally, and they didn’t get to feel the roar of applause and the energy of the ovation. Most recently, Ellen Overstreet, who had been my favorite over the past several years as well as Katelyn May, who debuted and dazzled as Mary in “The Secret Garden” as well as, of course, perennial principal Kate Honea, who danced with the company for nearly two decades. As the beloved dancers leave the stage, I feel a sense of loss that the company to which I have grown so attached must frequently change and grow. So, I was so pleased to have the opportunity to give Hulland and Sadoshima enthusiastic send-offs with extended standing ovations. It was especially touching to watch Hulland’s young daughter run out to the stage to give her mother a hug, which was one of the most moving moments of the season.

“Serendipitous Movement” began with “Serenade,” which was a gorgeous traditional Balanchine piece, and a nice contrast to “A Comedy of Errors,” the March show, which was frothy good fun. Hulland reprised her role as the “Waltz Girl” and triumphantly led the seventeen female dancers. In the infancy of the School of American Ballet, seventeen dancers attended a technique class, so Balanchine choreographed “Serenade” for exactly that number. It was lovely to watch the mini-math moments as the dancers reconfigured themselves in various shapes suited to the uneven and very large number of them. The piece is a signature of the New York City Ballet, and our local dancers gave a world class performance of this piece.

Sarasota Ballet performing “Serenade” (photo by Frank Atura)

“The Letter V” by Mark Morris, whose company performed locally earlier this season, was a surprise hit for me. The costumes, by Maile Okamura, were so unique – almost garish, especially on the men, but entirely a one-of-a-kind with an “only at the opera house” vibe – all breezy fabrics overlaid on tight stripes. Quite honestly, I preferred the performance of “The Letter V” by our company to the visiting company’s performance. The maturity and depth of our ballet dancers helped them tackle this piece with grace and style that was fascinating and inspiring.

Sarasota Ballet in “Elite Syncopations” (photo by Frank Atura)

Finally, “Elite Syncopations” was so theatrical and spunky and let the company fully enjoy their final performance of a momentous season on the heels of nearly two years out of the theater. Ian Spurling’s designs were colorful and playful reflecting the lighthearted ragtime piece. Once again, the dancers brought their own personalities to the performance and left the audience wanting more. It’s hardly fair to blow us away with a fabulous final piece and then drop the curtain until the fall. Yet, these dancers deserve a break after dazzling us all year and helping us find our joy again after such a painful time in our history.

The Sarasota Ballet company gives each performance everything they have, and I love the fact that we get to connect with them on a more personal level by watching them perfect so many different pieces by a range of choreographers and explore such a wide range of styles. I can’t wait to see them again this fall!

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