BWW Review: A TRIBUTE TO ASHTON at Sarasota Ballet
If you were one of the fortunate people attending one of the evening performances of The Sarasota Ballet's sold-out, A Tribute to Ashton, (Sir Frederick Ashton), Scènes de ballet and The Two Pigeons, you were fortunate indeed.
The evening's performances were a celebration of the 10th anniversary in which Director Iain Webb has been at the helm of the Sarasota Ballet. Sir Frederick Ashton holds a special place in the hearts of Mr. Webb and Assistant Director, Margaret Barbieri. Both studied under Ashton and danced in a production of The Two Pigeons. Before his passing, "Sir Fred" gave them special permission to dance the final pas de duex at an international gala. The Sarasota Ballet was the first American company granted permission to dance this ballet. It was only fitting to pay such a grand tribute to Sir Frederick on this special occasion.
Sir Frederick Ashton was inspired to take up dancing after attending a performance by Russian prima ballerina, Anna Pavlova, in 1917. After moving to London, he worked to perfect his craft as a dancer and choreographer with the Royal Ballet. His work not only touched ballet, but revues, musicals, opera, film and international commissions. He created ballads in New York, Monte Carlo, Paris and Milan. He was known for creating ballads around the specific talents of certain dancers. The Two Pigeons was created in 1961 for Lynn Seymour and Christopher Gable.
Scènes de ballet is a suite of dance movements choreographed by Ashton and composed by Igor Stravinski. The staging and costumes are geometric in design and capture your eye for the great deal of movements that flow before you. Leads, Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes flawlessly delivered a nice blend of his strength and her delicate presence in this intriguing, yet short piece. By the end of it, you longed for just a little bit more.
The Two Pigeons was boldly reverent to Ashton. Often considered one of his finest works, the Sarasota Ballet paid homage with a triumphant performance. This love story follows a Painter, (Marcelo Gomes, Guest Principal of American Ballet Theatre), in his studio in Paris and his sweetheart, (Victoria Hulland), whom he is trying to capture on canvas. A pigeon flying by the studio window distracts her. She emulates it through a series of arabesques, jumps and graceful movements that resemble the flight of a bird. Her lack of concentration, not appreciating the Painter trying to draw her, displeases yet allures him. You get the feeling they likened themselves to the pigeon - maybe its freedom to move about or the grace by which it moves. When she joins several of her girlfriends, it isn't long before they and the Painter take on birdlike characteristics through astutely staged choreography.
We follow them to a boorish encampment where a dance off challenges their more refined physical skills against those of the Bohemian-natured Gypsies. The Painter falls for one of the Gypsy girls, (Kate Honea), teasing him with her beguiling moves. The Painter and his sweetheart fall in love, fall out of love and get back together again through some of ballet's most exquisite moves and dance sequences. The lovers end up in each other's arms back at the Painter's studio, while two live pigeons fly onstage for a unified landing. This culminates in a beautiful moment of tenderness for a blissful ending.
The Two Pigeons was impeccably supported by the Corps de Ballet and the Sarasota Orchestra. It was especially delightful to see Mr. Marcelo Gomes grace the stage, and have in attendance Sir Fred's nephew, Anthony Russell Roberts.
Touché to Iain Webb for 10 brilliant years as Director. Here's to at least anther 10!
Upcoming events for the Ballet are their 26th Annual Gala March 26, De Valois, Balanchine & Robbins April 28-30, Conservatory Spring Concert May 5, and Dance-The Next Generation End-of-Year performance, May 6. For more information visit www.sarasotaballet.org.