The Sarasota Ballet season opens with two fresh pieces by acclaimed choreographers.
By Kay Kipling
I usually stick to theater when writing “On Stage,” but since I went to the Sarasota Ballet on Friday night I felt compelled to write something about that performance—in large part because, as everyone knows, this was the beginning of the company’s 2007-08 season, and it was also the first production under the artistic leadership of Iain Webb, who’s bringing the work of some highly celebrated choreographers to town. That made it feel important and exciting.
Judging from the turnout at the Van Wezel, ballet subscribers feel energized, too. Of course these are the people who give their hearts and money to the ballet, so you might expect the standing ovation the dancers received from this supportive crowd.
But for me (and I admit, I hadn’t attended the ballet here for a while), it was just a treat to see new pieces. The evening opened with Balanchine’s Allegro Brillante, a pretty-looking amuse-bouche served before the main course of Sir Frederick Ashton’s The Two Pigeons. It provided a nice showcase for the talents of lead ballerina Alison Dubsky, partnered at the last moment by Octavio Martin, who was, perhaps understandably, not quite as sharp as Dubsky. The corps de ballet would earn mixed reviews from me, too, but the movements, set to Tchaikovsky’s Piano Concerto No. 3, were properly romantic.
The centerpiece of the night, however, The Two Pigeons, was a delight both to look at and to get more emotionally involved in. This piece, with music by Andre Messager, opens in a lovely artist’s studio in a Parisian attic, where the artist (Sergiy Mykhaylov) is having trouble with his model and muse (Lauren Strongin). Strongin proves that she can act as well as dance with her work here, alternately pouting and flirting with her man in a charming style.
The equilibrium is upset by the unexpected (and unexplained) arrival of a troupe of gypsies. The artist is immediately taken by the spirited gypsy girl (Kyoko Takeichi), who tempts him under the eyes of her own gypsy lover (Martin). And despite the best efforts of Strongin’s character to prevent it, the artist is, of course, drawn to the gypsy camp, where we know trouble will ensure.
The dancing here is strong throughout, especially by Takeichi and Mykhaylov, and the colorful gypsy costumes, when flashing and swirling swiftly before our eyes, make quite a feast, too. In the end, true lovers are reunited in an appealing scene that involves some extremely well-trained pigeons.
I’m looking forward to the rest of the ballet season.