Sarasota Ballet dazzles with In Rep

Sarasota Ballet’s latest production called “In Rep,” was the first ballet I have seen since appearing in Sarasota Ballet School’s production of “The Nutcracker.” I fulfilled a lifelong dream to appear in “The Nutcracker,” and it was extra special, because my daughter and I portrayed a mother and daughter in the party scene. Now that I have had the opportunity to not only watch from our front row seats for every production of the ballet, but to join our incredible local company on stage, I have had a thrilling backstage pass to see firsthand the intricate dance that goes on behind the scenes to ensure that we see a polished, complete work of artistry every time the curtain goes up.

I had been eagerly anticipating the first piece of the evening called “Shades of Spring,” which was commissioned to be performed first at the Joyce (one year we will time our New York City trip during the ballet’s residency – I am sure of it!) Jessica Lang, the choreographer, said her work demonstrates a “universal message about beauty, hope, an idea of grace that we need in this world.” Leave it to Artistic Director Iain Webb to transport Lang with her fresh perspective and call for grace and beauty to our shores on the culture coast. Seeing a new piece placed on our local dancers is such an exciting part of each new season, and “Shades of Spring” is a breathtaking and bold addition to the company’s extensive repertoire.

Although the calendar says we are in our winter months, it feels like Sarasota springtime, because it is the most glorious time of year marked by bright sun punctuated with cool breezes. Lang’s piece illustrates how humans integrate themselves into the natural world. The dancers are set against visual art projections by Roxanne Revon of plants and flowers suspended in water to set the scene for the bucolic and carefree joy expressed by the dancers. Lang wants to make the point through her dance that as living beings, we must be in tune with nature. I love art with a message, and with simple elegance, Lang’s fresh and vital choreography emphasizes that when we live peacefully with nature, we can regain our sense of awe for the wonders of life. It’s the kind of piece I could watch repeatedly and never tire of it.

Arcadian Broad and Yuki Nonaka in “Shades of Spring” photo by Frank Atura

The MVP of the evening was Arcadian Broad, who was promoted to soloist in 2022, and comes to us from Orlando. His performance in “Shades of Spring” dressed in a light olive-green bodysuit was nuanced and lyrical – befitting his unique name which means rural paradise. It’s rare to find a performer simply kill it in one piece and then be the mastermind behind the very next piece of the evening. I was not previously aware that the 25-year-old Broad competed on “America’s Got Talent” and “So You Think You Can Dance” and has also choreographed 35 pieces. His latest, “Frequency Hurtz,” was the centerpiece of the triple bill. The world premiere was a heady mix – a complicated score, which he helped compose, and a singular dance vocabulary that was systematic and stylized. The various frequencies used in the piece are meant to take the audience member through a range of experiences. Broad intended that every individual would have an entirely different take on the piece. I prefer more lyrical numbers and the sound was more cacophonous for me, but my husband thought this was the best piece of the season and was deeply enthralled with Broad’s work. The sound and movement did not have a clear structure and was stylistically very Cagean and marked by indeterminacy. The quirky costumes and girls in space buns made the whole piece seem very futuristic. I definitely want another bite at the apple with this unusual and very thoughtful piece. Broad is a true talent, and I love to see the dancers have the chance to debut their choreography and extend their range for such an enthusiastic audience. Sarasota Ballet fans are up for a challenge and greeted this piece with pleasure and excitement.

Richard House and Danielle Brown in “Frequency Hurtz” photo by Frank Atura

Finally, we were treated to a classic favorite “Façade.” This piece is always a lot of fun with its silly humor. The highlight was the cheeky, irreverent and hilarious pairing of real-life couple Danielle Brown and Ricki Bertoni as tango dancers. This charming piece ended the night with rousing applause for the company.

Next up is the Sarasota premiere of Dance Theatre of Harlem. There will be six opportunities to see Dance Theatre of Harlem next weekend. It’s an ideal way to commemorate Black History Month with this world renowned company founded by dancer Arthur Mitchell who was inspired to bring dance to children, especially those living in Harlem, after the tragic death of Martin Luther King Jr. Mitchell said, “The arts ignite the mind, they give you the possibility to dream and to hope.” This company recently celebrated a half century of prominence in the dance world. Don’t miss DTH – February 24th – 27th.

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