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The Sarasota Ballet at The Joyce: There Where She Loved, Monotones, La Chatte, Les Patineurs, Meditation from Thais, The Two Pigeons
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The Sarasota Ballet at The Joyce: There Where She Loved, Monotones, La Chatte, Les Patineurs, Meditation from Thais, The Two Pigeons

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Sarasota Ballet

Iain Webb, Director
Joseph Volpe, Exec. Director

There Where She Loved
La Chatte
Les Patineurs
Méditation from Thaïs
The Two Pigeons

Guest Principal: Marcelo Gomes

Lighting Designer: Aaron Muhl
Technical Director: Bill Atkins
Stage Manager: Mark Noble

The Joyce Theater
175 Eighth Avenue
New York, NY 10011

Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower
August 18, 2018 Matinee

There Where She Loved (2000): Choreography by Christopher Wheeldon, Music by Frédéric Chopin and Kurt Weill, Designed by Holly Hines, Staged by Margaret Barbieri, Lighting by Aaron Muhl, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Sopranos: Michele Giglio and Stella Zambalis, Performed by the Company.

On second viewing, this time first in the program (last night this was the final work), Wheeldon’s 2000 There Where She Loved, again danced to a Chopin-Weill score of lieder, sung by seasoned sopranos, Michele Giglio and Stella Zambalis, and accompanied on piano by the ever so talented Cameron Grant, was equally, if not more, memorable and magnetic. On this late summer afternoon, the ballet was ravishing, filled with passion and presence, and I was once again seated front and left, close to the stage and piano. The final dance, “Je ne t’aime pas” (“I do not love you”), found Amy Wood and Ricardo Graziano (who is also the Company’s in-house choreographer), in intense, dynamic fervor as their relationship shattered before us. “Surabaya Johnny” was particularly mournful, danced by Ricardo Rhodes, Kate Honea, Katelyn May, and Ellen Overstreet. “Nanna’s Lied” (“Nanna’s Song”) included sumptuous sliding, lifting, and flying motifs for Christine Windsor and four men. Once again, I hope to see this Wheeldon masterpiece again soon. His ballets are always unforgettable.

Monotones I and II (1965-66): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Eric Satie, Trois Gnossiennes, Trois Gymnopédies, Designs by Sir Frederick Ashton, Originally Staged by Lynn Wallis, Restaged by Margaret Barbieri, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Performed by (I): Ryoko Sadoshima, Thomas Giugovaz, Samantha Benoit, (II): Jamie Carter, Amy Wood, Daniel Pratt.

Also on second viewing (this 1965-66 Ashton work was also performed last night), Monotones I and II, the first danced in surreal, spring green, body-fitting leotards and head covers, the second danced in similar white costumes, the first for a trio of one man and two women, the second for a trio of two men and one woman, was outstanding. I have seen this work on multiple viewings, on multiple stages, danced by multiple companies, and, on each viewing the experience is enthralling. Sometimes the Satie score of Gnossiennes and Gymnopédies is performed orchestrally, but usually it’s played on solo piano, as it was here, by the ever-so-reliable Cameron Grant. Balance is key to this ballet, in slow, deliberate, luminous motion, and all six dancers were in peak form and presence. It’s in a studied work like Monotones that a Company’s talent is tested, and Sarasota rose to the occasion.

La Chatte (1985): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Jacques Offenbach, La chatte métamorphosée en femme, Designs by William Chappell, Originally Staged by Grant Coyle, Restaged by Margaret Barbieri and Iain Webb, Pianist: Cameron Grant, Danced by Kate Honea.

In this one work, a front row seat had its limitations, as I could not see a mechanical mouse scurry about the stage to annoy Kate Honea, the solo dancer performing as the entertaining, vaudevillian cat-“ish” woman, in Ashton’s 1985 La Chatte. In furry, womanly-catlike costume, Ms. Honea brought down the house, with Broadway-ready theatrics and charisma. Offenbach’s recorded score, excerpted from one of his nineteenth century operas, is delightful, dervish, breezy, and buoyant, as was the ballet. This is an adorable, gala-style solo ballet, giving the Sarasota touring repertory yet another rare, Ashton oeuvre.

Les Patineurs (1937): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Giacomo Meyerbeer, Les Patineurs, Designs by William Chappell, Staged by Margaret Barbieri and Iain Webb, Performed by Asia Bui, Ivan Duarte, Samantha Benoit. I had seen and reviewed The Sarasota Ballet’s performance of Ashton’s full-length 1937 Les Patineurs in 2014, on these pages, but, alas, tonight we saw only the Pas de Trois, and the historically imbued sets and costumes, with ice-skating outfits, coats, muffs, and woolen caps for the men, were simplified for today’s event. The trio, Asia Bui, Ivan Duarte, and Samantha Benoit, were aerobic in motion and effervescent in mood, but one had to recall and reimagine the gorgeously lit skating arena that I remember from first viewing. Meyerbeer’s score is contagious, and I would love to see this in full-length version again.

Méditation from Thaïs (1971): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Jules Massenet, Thaïs, Designs by Sir Anthony Dowell, originally Staged by Grant Coyle, Restaged by Margaret Barbieri, Performed by Katelyn May and Ricardo Rhodes.

In this Ashton-enhanced program, the next piece was his intoxicating 1971 Méditation from Thaïs. Ashton’s Pas de Deux, a dance homage to the Massenet opera, reimagines the love story of Thaïs and her lover. This unfolds as an intense scene, using the opera’s violin solo, akin to such scenes in familiar story ballets, as in the finales of Swan Lake and La Bayadère. Katelyn May and Ricardo Rhodes were stunning and sensual, magnifying Ashton’s incredible choreography. In fact, this Ashton Pas de Deux is a favorite in ballet competitions and galas.

The Two Pigeons (1961): Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton, Music by Andre Messager, Les Deux Pigeons, Designs by Jacque Dupont, Staged by Margaret Barbieri and Iain Webb, Performed by Victoria Hulland and Marcelo Gomes.

Then, the moment New York balletomanes were anticipating arrived. We had missed a favorite “danseur”, Marcelo Gomes, a former Ballet Theatre Principal, who had not been seen on New York stages in a full season. He appeared today as a Guest Principal with Sarasota in Ashton’s 1961 The Two Pigeons. This was the final Pas de Deux from Act II. I had seen and reviewed this ballet on these pages in full length form, during a Lincoln Center Festival in 2004. At that time, the ballet was performed by the Birmingham Royal Ballet. Today’s Pas de Deux, out of plot context, an excerpt so to speak, left much to wish for next time. I hope Sarasota considers staging the full two-act magical ballet in New York in future seasons. In 2004 I raved about this Ashton work, a true love story, and a tale of two pigeons.

In 2017 Mr. Gomes danced with The Sarasota Ballet as a Guest, partnering Victoria Hulland in the full-length version, and, for New York, they brought Mr. Gomes back for the Pas de Deux with Ms. Hulland. The Gypsy scene was missing, as Mr. Gomes’ character has returned to a relationship, after wandering about and landing in a Gypsy encampment. Ms. Hulland is the lead dancer. Mr. Gomes is the dramatic figure, supporting her in choreographic lifts and rapture, with little onstage motion. The Joyce is a small stage, and it all works out splendidly, as all eyes turn to two very well-trained pigeons, one who arrives on Mr. Gomes’ shoulders, then flies off and joins his partner pigeon on the perch of the chair. The audience was in swoon-worthy awe, both for Mr. Gomes and for the pigeons, but it was ever so grateful to Ms. Hulland for putting all this together. The choreography was typical story ballet partnering in a romantic finale, but, again, here he was, our own Marcelo Gomes, whom we all miss dearly. And, here were those pigeons, so well-choreographed on their own. A magical treat for sure. And, finally, this was goodbye for now to The Sarasota Ballet, for this New York visit. Hopefully they will return soon, and, if they do, how great it would be to see Ashton’s The Two Pigeons full-length, with Mr. Gomes as Guest Principal again.

Kudos to Iain Webb, The Sarasota’s Director, kudos to all the Sarasota dancers and staff, kudos to Marcelo Gomes, and kudos to Sir Frederick Ashton.

Marcelo Gomes and Victoria Hulland
in Ashton's "The Two Pigeons" Pas de Deux
Courtesy of The Sarasota Ballet

For more information, contact Dr. Roberta E. Zlokower at