What a joy last night's closing gala was! I was wondering if I would regret driving 3 hours to see the final night of the Ashton Festival, but I was glad at the end of the night that I went.
Sarasota Ballet's dancers showed a fluid upper body and nice arms that is not often seen in this country. Kbarber, who I met and who is very nice, tells me that the class earlier in the day showed how the upper bodies are stressed in their classes, because Ashton stressed this. I saw better arm movements last night than on videos by the Royal Ballet which I often find very stiff in the upper bodies. This is a quirk of mine. I like to take the waist down for granted and love when the arms and upper bodies are flowing! Sarasota Ballet's dancers were not as amazing with their arms as Vaganova trained dancers, but they came close at least in this repertoire!!!
The evening started with Illuminations which was surreal. Monotones 1 and 2 were originally scheduled but I was glad to see this rare ballet. No way to really understand what is going on, but the costumes and dancing were fascinating. This is where Amy Wood (Sacred Love) and Ellen Overstreet (Profane Love) showed off their flowing arms. At moments it was almost (not quite, but almost) like watching Mariinsky dancers. Ricardo Graziano (who I saw as Colas last season in La Fille mal Gardee) was terrific in his turns and leaps. He is great in his solos and when partnering. At moments I wished they had performed this without a tenor singing the songs. I found him mediocre. Maybe he had to learn this music quickly. No idea. The audience loved him, but after 20+ years of opera listening I am really picky....I guess I should cut him some slack. I guess not everyone can be Pavarotti or Domingo or even Polenzani!
Divertissements came next. Ellen Overstreet was fun and sexy in Jazz Calendar staying in character even for curtain calls rolling her shoulder! During the Awakening pas de deux for Sleeping Beauty I thought Ricardo Rhodes betrayed the fact that Sarasota Ballet is still not quite at the international level at all times. He has actually impressed me in the past (I think in Les Rendezvous last season), but somehow he was off his game and seemed to have a hard time turning Victoria Hulland in the overhead turns. He also seemed a bit tentative in his solo moments. Maybe he is injured or nerves before a packed international audience got to him. La Chatte was danced by Kate Honea, and she was cute and in character as a cat trying to be a woman.
Then, came the Meditation from Thais with Danielle Brown and Edward Gonzalez (a former National Ballet of Cuba dancer). These two were FABULOUS and brought tears to my eyes as I thought about a past love myself as they danced. This was one of the highlights of the night for me.
Voices of Spring with Jessica Cohen and Ricardo Graziano was exuberant and beautiful too. A good piece to end the divertissements with....
And the cherry on top: Les Patineurs and Logan Learned (who I have seen in the trio of Les Rendezvous and as Alain in La Fille Mal Gardee) wiped the stage clean with his acrobatics and personality. It should have been called Logan Learned and Friends! I felt like I saw the best Blue Boy I will ever see in my lifetime. He stole the show (which is easy for the Blue Boy to do). The only quibble would be that I expected his turns in second to speed up as the curtain went down. But overall this dancer is incredible. His short stature and cutie pie personality would probably hinder him in other companies, but Sarasota Ballet recognizes what a gem they have and made him a Principal last season I believe.
I saw Miami City Ballet do Les Patineurs and although very professional and nice there was something missing. Sarasota Ballet dancers looked like they were totally in character and having fun!!! At times the Sarasota Opera House stage was a bit too small causing the group scenes to look too crowded, but their exuberance and passion made this a great performance.