Sarasota Ballet - Joyce Theater

I had purchased my ticket to see Sarasota Ballet months ago.  But I never thought that I would have to travel on one of the hottest days of the summer.  It was brutal and I seriously considered just missing the performance.  But this company has received such lovely notices for their appearance at the Joyce this week that I felt I would be missing something special.  So I slogged my way into NYC and braved the heat wave.

Sarasota Ballet has found a niche for themselves as the foremost interpreters of  Sir Frederick Ashton's ballets.  They specialize in forgotten gems that don't see too many performances.  Hence their program at the Joyce consisted of Aston's Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales, Tweedledum and Tweedledee, The Walk to Paradise Garden, Jazz Calendar/Friday's Child, Sinfonietta/2nd Movement and Facade.

Valses Nobles Et Sentimentales was beautiful and dreamy.  It brought back the mood of the 1940s when it was choreographed.  It had a lot of signature Ashton moves that the company danced beautifully.  Everyone was fully classical, no over extensions, with lovely expressive bodies.  There times I thought I was watching dancers from the golden age of RB when Fonteyn and Shearer were still dancing.  Sarasota has many beautiful female dancers who have the looks and style of mid-20th century dancers.  The ones who stood out were Nicolle Padilla, Elizabeth Sykes and the lead Victoria Hulland.

Tweedledum and TweedleDee was a short piece that was mainly a duo for two male dancers.  It was sweet and light.  Maybe a bit too frothy compared to the rest of the program.  But I enjoyed it.  The two main dancers, Sam O'Brien and Kyle Hiyoshi  acted the parts wonderfully.

The Walk to Paradise Garden was lovely if a bit of a wet blanket among the pieces danced.  A tone poem on Romeo and Juliet, it was about star crossed lovers who are ultimately separated by death.  It was gentle and sensual.  Ryoko Sadoshima was lovely in the lead part.  Ricardo Rhodes partnered her beautifully.  Rhodes is one of those dancers who embodies the 21st century style, lean, long with gorgeous extensions.  Usually these dancers have a hard time with pas de deux because their physiques don't have a lot of upper body strength.  But this was not a problem for Rhodes.  The tricky lifts in this ballet posed no problem for him.

Jazz Calendar/Friday's Child was pure 1960s and it showed its age.  But that didn't mean I didn't like it.  The late 60s to the 70's was the world of my babyhood.  So watching this ballet was like peeking into my childhood a bit.  This ballet was more of a vanity piece for Rudolf Nureyev.  So many of the steps had both the male dancer and female dancer mirroring steps.  There was a lot of sexuality to it as well.  Amy Wood and Edward Gonzalez danced this very nicely with perfect jazzy looseness in their bodies.

Sinfonietta/2nd Movement had a lot of influence of Monotones.  This was another piece that seemed a bit out of place with the other offerings.  It was spare and rather intellectual compared to the rest of the ballets.  There was no warmth to it.  There was a note in the playbill that it was supposed to remind the audience of birds.  I suppose this was because the female dancer hardly touches the stage.  She is maneuvered around by a series of lifts between 5 male dancers.  However the music was rather sinister and the dancers didn't remind me of birds.  The piece reminded me more of a Queen insect with her drones.  But there were very memorable images from the ballet.  At one point the female dancer is swung by her male partners over the audience.  The dance forms are also strictly classical.  I was glad to see the Sarasota performers not trying to make much of the simple steps but just letting spareness reveal its own beauty.

Facade, the one ballet in the program that is regularly performed all over the world was extremely fun and the dancers acted their parts well.  My favorite dancers of the previous works, Nicole Padilla and Elizabeth Sykes had larger parts.  Sam O'Brien and Kyle Hiyoshi were back as a team but this time dancing the roles of dandies.  Kate Honea and Ricardo Graziano were a very funny Tango team.

I was so glad that I was able to see the Sarasota on their NY tour.  I'm hoping they will be able to come back with more Ashton treasures in their repertoire.  My only complaint was that the Joyce stage was just not large enough for them.  I think many of their pieces needed a bigger space.  Plus being so close to them during performance broke the mood of some of the works, Valses Nobles especially.  Many of the pieces need the female dancers to look serene and distance plus space creates that impression.  When you are face up close as you are at the Joyce, you can see the dancers' muscles working, straining and quivering.  You can see the sweat on all the dancers.  Maybe this sold out run will convince sponsors to put the company up on a bigger stage next time they visit NYC.

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