Over the past decade, The Sarasota Ballet has built a reputation for bringing complex and diverse choreography to the stage. With a repertoire spanning classical to contemporary styles, and performing ballets from the effervescent and enchanting, to the somber and strifeful, programs from The Sarasota Ballet are often widely varied in thematic nature. The 2019–2020 Season continues this trend with an arrangement of ballets including six Company Premieres, a tribute to Paul Taylor including the Company Premiere of his Brandenburgs and the presentation of the Paul Taylor Dance Company, and so much more.
Opening 22 November 2019 at the Sarasota Opera House, Symphonic Tales, the second program of The Sarasota Ballet’s 2019–2020 Season, showcases the choreographic variety featured in the company’s repertoire. In addition to bringing the Company Premiere of George Balanchine’s vivacious Western Symphony to stage, the program also features the return of Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s striking and dramatic piece, Las Hermanas, along with Balanchine’s radiant display of classical technique, Theme and Variations. This trio is certain to please fans of traditional ballet as well as those seeking a fusion of theatrical flair and dynamic footwork. The program will also feature Principal Guest Artist Marcelo Gomes, international guest artist renowned for his athleticism as well as his acting, in principal roles in performances of Las Hermanas and Western Symphony.
George Balanchine’s Theme and Variations leads the three-ballet program with regal splendor reminiscent of the tradition of the Russian Imperial Ballet – a deep musicality and complexity driven by Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky’s Orchestral Suite No. 3 in G major, Opus 55, yet with a refined elegance augmented by Peter Farmer’s resplendent designs. Originally created in 1947 for Ballet Theatre (now American Ballet Theatre), Theme and Variations was first performed by The Sarasota Ballet in December 2017; the ivory and frost-blue costumes evoke a chilly, yet elegant aesthetic perfectly suited for a winter-season program.
The second ballet marks a dramatic shift in tone; Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s Las Hermanas serves as an adaptation of Federico García Lorca’s theatrical masterpiece, The House of Bernarda Alba. Set in a decadent pre-Spanish Civil War provincial Spain, this tale of maternal control gone awry explores themes of repression and sisterly disharmony. A widowed, domineering mother meticulously maintains the lives of her five daughters, all yearning for independence; when an attractive male suitor visits the quiet village and piques the family’s interest, a clash of tradition versus sexual passion erupts, threatening to tear the household apart. A narrative-focused piece that choreographically emphasizes the emotive gravity, and accompanied by a powerful score by Frank Martin, Las Hermanas seamlessly weaves dance and theater in a tempestuous spectacle destined for tragedy.
Closing Symphonic Tales on a significantly more upbeat note is the Company Premiere of George Balanchine’s lively rustic extravaganza, Western Symphony. In contrast with Theme and Variations, Western Symphony serves as Balanchine’s love letter to Americana – cowboys and dance hall girls rejoice along an Old West street, performing conventional ballet techniques alongside American folk gestures and formations. Having evolved since its 1954 New York City Ballet premiere, with costumes by Karinska and a set by John Boyt added the following year, the ballet also celebrates classic American folk tunes arranged by Hershy Kay, adding a distinctive Western twang to the production. A rollicking yet technically impressive piece, Western Symphony closes the program with Balanchine’s trademark charm and whimsy.
After a stellar opening with Graziano, Retrospective at the end of October, The Sarasota Ballet has started their year with remarkable momentum. While we eagerly anticipate what the Company has planned for the rest of their 29th Season, Symphonic Tales in particular reflects the range and breadth of material brought to Sarasota under the leadership of The Sarasota Ballet’s Director, Iain Webb. With an old-fashioned yeehaw, we watch on as The Sarasota Ballet reaches new artistic heights.