Wednesday, December 5, 2007

Sarasota Ballet gets high praise

Yes, I admit it. In the year that I have been here I had yet to see a Sarasota Ballet production — until last Saturday.

And I can tell you I was very impressed with what I saw.

Last weekend was the ballet's season opener and Iain Webb's debut as the new artistic director of the company. The program was comprised of George Balanchine's "Allegro Brillante" and the colorful "The Two Pigeons," by Sir Frederick Ashton.

Apparently, I wasn't the only one who thought the program was wonderful, as the audience gave a long applause and a standing ovation after Saturday's matinee performance at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall in Sarasota.

Especially eye-catching was "The Two Pigeons," a very sweet love story about a young girl trying to win the affection of a painter who is more concerned with working. But when a group of gypsies arrive with a beautiful woman that attracts his attention, the painter pretty much forgets about everybody else. Isn't that always the way?

I was amazed at some of the funnier moments in the ballet when the jealous young girl, delightfully portrayed by Lauren Strongin, almost gets in a fist fight with the beautiful gypsy.

More intriguing was the use of two live birds in the production, symbolizing the young girl and painter.

Though Webb, who has more than 30 years of dance under his belt, isn't a chorographer, he's brought some well-known chorographers and dancers from the ballet world (including his wife, Margaret Barbieri) to help stage these ballets that are rarely done in the United States. Their combined efforts made for a dazzling performance, displaying the unique and often beautiful choreography from both ballets.

I can't wait to see what else Webb has in store for the season. I'm sure he's winning over some new fans of the ballet company.

— January Holmes

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