Long-Distance Sarasota Ballet Rehearsal Is Up Close and Personal

By Megan McDonald March 27, 2012

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Dominic Walsh

In the Sarasota Ballet rehearsal studio last Saturday, company members listened intently as choreographer Dominic Walsh critiqued their run-through of his ballet Bello.

“That was great, the partnering is really coming along nicely,” Walsh said. But then he suggested a long list of tweaks, from the way a shoulder was bent to the way a leg should be pointed. He told one dancer she needed to be more alluring in a particularly sensual part of the ballet.

“You can even mouth the words  ‘Are you coming to bed?,’" he told her. “This is your Meryl Streep moment.”

Walsh, however, wasn’t in the rehearsal hall. He was a thousand miles away in Texas, watching the dancers via Skype on a computer.  The dancers huddled around an iPad in Sarasota as they conversed with him.

As a technophobe who has barely learned how to send a picture on my phone,  I was amazed at how smoothly this “virtual” rehearsal unfolded.  As long as the dancers stayed within certain boundaries on the floor, Walsh could see every move they made, with crystal-clear reception.

And what moves they made!  Bello, which will be performed April 13-14 in a program that will also feature Nine Sinatra Songs by Twyla Tharp and George Balanchine’s Serenade, is both elegant and earthy, and it’s sure to get a passionate response.

Though abstract in form,  it is a tribute to a now-deceased dancer friend of Walsh’s. The  main character reflects on his life through his relationship with the influential women in his life.

A former principal with the Houston Ballet, Walsh formed his own company, the Dominic Walsh Dance Theater, and he serves as Sarasota Ballet’s resident choreographer.

The upcoming performances are at the Sarasota Opera House. For ticket information, go to

Glorious Celebration of DeRenzi ‘s Anniversary

Maybe it was appropriate that a blown fuse briefly interrupted Artistic Director Victor DeRenzi’s 30th anniversary concert on Sunday night at the Sarasota Opera House. Because this was an electrifying,  thrilling performance that left the cheering audience breathless at the end.

DeRenzi conducted a full orchestra on the Opera House stage, as principals and chorus members sang excerpts from several operas, incuding Fidelio, Norma and La Forza del Destino.

I was hoping that DeRenzi might offer a few words of reflection about his remarkable tenure with Sarasota Opera. Maybe he did that at a post-concert reception. More likely, he wanted this glorious music to speak for itself.

Westcoast Black Theatre Expanding its Season

If you’re one of the passionate fans of the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe,  you’ll have a lot more to love next season.

Because of audience demand, the company is adding a week to the run of each of its four productions next year. The company is also opening a month earlier, in November.

The opening production is an original show, Nate Jacobs’ ‘50s Jukebox Revue,  which celebrates such artists as Fats Domino, Little Richard and The Platters.

The troupe will perform its third play by Pulitzer Prize winner August Wilson, Jitney.  Set in 1970s Pittsburgh, it’s about a group of cab drivers who search for meaning in their lives.

The musical revue Soul Crooners 2 is a followup to one of the company’s biggest hits.  “People have been asking to bring back Soul Crooners, but I thought it made more sense to do a new version,’’ Artistic Director Nate Jacobs said.

The season ends with It Ain’t Nothin’ But the Blues, a Tony Award-nominated musical revue that explores the development of blues music from its African roots to the present.


From left, Sheldon Rhoden, Charles Manning, Leon S. Pitts II and Mikeyy Mendez, stars of Soul Crooners, will return for the show's sequel next season at the Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

Photo courtesy Westcoast Black Theatre Troupe.

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