Where does American Ballet Theatre star and choreographer Marcelo Gomes look for inspiration when preparing a new work? For one, to the dancers of the Sarasota Ballet, who will be performing his world premiere in the “Metropolitan” program Dec. 1 and 2 at the Sarasota Opera House. For another, to the music of Beethoven’s Seventh Symphony, one of the composer’s most acclaimed works and among the musical giant’s personal favorites.
During past visits and performances with the Sarasota Ballet, Gomes says he was “so inspired by the way they move—there’s a good combination between my way of moving and theirs. And I just so admire the way they give their all. They’re fully committed, whether they’re dancing to Ashton or Balanchine or someone else. It’s what I love to see, that mix of control and abandon, and how dancers can perform past the point of exhaustion and keep on going.”
The Brazilian-born Gomes, currently marking 20 years as a dancer with ABT, has more recently turned to choreography, with his 2015 ballet AfterEffect (his third for the company) receiving praise from The New York Times. Of his upcoming work here, he says, “I have an idea for a sort of loose narrative, centered on a man who’s about to lose his life, and maybe he has a jolt of energy and decides to write a letter expressing his thanks for that life. I see the corps de ballet as his memories, everything playing inside his head. Perhaps there will be a woman symbolizing the love of his life; perhaps some dancers will symbolize his youth.”
While Gomes says the idea is “an exciting start” for the work, he adds that he doesn’t like to proceed too far with his creative process until “I’m with the dancers to develop it, so it’s a collaboration.” To that end, he’s spending a full month here in Sarasota, working with the dancers, prior to the December performances.
Beethoven’s Seventh, Gomes says, “has such a large sound; it’s such beautiful music. It’s long, so to keep it to a one-act piece perhaps we’ll [he’s working with ABT music director and conductor Ormsby Wilkins on the score] do some editing.” But the size of the symphony, which features some lively rhythms (and which, interestingly, composer Richard Wagner referred to as “the apotheosis of the dance”), means the choreographer can bring to the stage many of the company’s dancers.
“I want to make it enjoyable and challenging for the dancers, and for the audience; that’s important to me,” says Gomes. “And I applaud Iain [Webb] and Maggie [Barbieri] for being hungry for new works. It’s very easy for a director to stay with the hits that people know. They’re willing to bring the new.” For tickets to the “Metropolitan” program, which also features Sir Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations and Balanchine’s Theme and Variations, call 359-0099 or visit sarasotaballet.org.