The Joyce’s closed it’s 2017-2018 season with the return of The Sarasota Ballet. With Dimensions Dance Theatre of Miami visiting in June and Sarasota Ballet last week, New Yorkers and Tri-Staters got a good look at Florida’s thriving dance scene. (Miami City Ballet comes to City Center in the fall.) The August 18 matinee exemplified the excitement with a ballet not seen locally in a decade, another glimpse at the company’s enviable Frederick Ashton repertory, and a guest appearance by Marcelo Gomes.
Program B opened with Christopher Wheeldon’s There Where She Loved. Created for The Royal Ballet in 2000, it was last seen here in 2007 with Wheeldon’s short-lived company Morphoses. There Where She Loved predates the Tony winning choreographer’s breakthrough Polyphonia by one year but no less structurally ambitious with a large cast – providing an excellent introduction to the dancers. The score alternates between songs by Chopin and Kurt Weill, gorgeously played by New York City Ballet solo pianist Cameron Grant and sung by sopranos Michelle Giglio and Stella Zambalis. Flirtations start and stop. Couples fall in love in duets seldom separating them.
Sarasota Ballet’s Director Ian Webb’s program notes mentioned that August 18 is the 30th anniversary of the death of Sir Frederick Ashton, The Royal Ballet’s Founding Choreographer and one of the all-time great dancemakers. Webb, a former Royal Ballet dancer, has made Ashton’s ballets a cornerstone of Sarasota’s repertory – something to be grateful for because Ashton’s ballets are infrequently performed. The trios Monotones I and II are big company repertory semi-regulars, due in part to Erik Satie’s Trois Gnossiennes (I) and Trois Gymnopédies.(II), popular piano pieces featured in way too many perfume commercials. However, they are unitard-clad abstract movement studies not always associated with Ashton. The 1960s headpieces predate 2001: A Space Odyssey by three years but are timeless. Both sets of dancers, Ryoko Sadoshima, Thomas Giugovaz and Katelyn May as pseudo-Ancient Egyptian wall figures come to life in Monotones I , and Jamie Carter, Amy Wood and Daniel Pratt coolly defying their haute couture demeanor in Monotones II, maintained perfect unison and musicality.
Asia Bui, Ivan Durate and Samantha Benoit performed the third trio of the afternoon from the lively, bravura Les Patineurs (The Skaters). It’s hard to say if even two-time Olympic champion Yuzuru Hanyu could execute the spins, turns and jumps simulating skating these three did. However if real cats like ballet, they would recognize themselves in Kate Honea’s La Chatte. She preened, bared her claws and chased a mechanical white mouse with sparkly eyes, mainly while crossing the stage with fast parallel first position (both legs together instead of turned out) steps on pointe. Princess Kitty wore a frilly tutu but her crown has ears.
Katelyn May and Richard Rhodes’ beautiful Méditation from Thaïs was filled with romance and longing but overshadowed – as the rest of the performance was – by the appearance of Marcelo Gomes in the finale from The Two Pigeons. The ABT veteran resigned from the company in December 2017 following accusations of sexual misconduct. The sold-out audience cheered and sobbed.
Was that the wrong response? Whatever happened was not made public, but there is no hiding in ballet. There are not only the mirrors, the body-shaming, choreographers unlike Wheeldon and Ashton who abuse women in their work, and artistic directors who take advantage of young company members. That’s a generalization, but each part of the previous sentence is well-documented and been told in more words than one review allows.
#Metoo is evolving and far from finished. The victims always come first. Forgiveness is for them to decide, but we all have to learn from this and make living, working, learning and creating environments better.
It’s uncomfortable trying to sort this out in a review. The ultimate job is to report back on the performance. Apologies for taking longer it should:
This performance proved that Gomes remains one of the few dancers who can appear onstage with a bird perched on his shoulder, moving naturally as if nothing was unusual. He and Victoria Hulland easily conveyed that the two had lost in found each other over the course of two acts. And yes, Marcelo Gomes remains an elegant dancer and attentive partner.
The Sarasota Ballet appeared August 14-19 at the Joyce Theater (175 Eighth Avenue, NYC).
The Joyce’s upcoming season schedule is posted on their website
Information on The Sarasota Ballet can be found here.
Visit the Frederick Ashton Foundation website for an overview of his life and work