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Company demonstrates its versatility through entertainingly eclectic program

The Sarasota Ballet is about midway through the 2019-2020 season. The dancers have performed choreography by George Balanchine, Ricardo Graziano and Kenneth MacMillan with excellence. They have even transformed into clowns, trapeze artists and acrobats in Matthew Hart’s “John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker.” Program 4 brought three additional, and very different, choreographers to this season’s lineup. Seven shows of “Redefined Movement” were performed this past weekend at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

Friday evening’s performance opened with Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Les Rendezvous,” a light charmer that embodies the sophistication of Ashton’s style. Set with blue skies, white park gates and to cheerful Daniel Auber music, the ballet creates an upbeat and refreshing mood.

Kate Honea and Ricardo Rhodes were quite convincing as the lead couple. Honea was airy and graceful but still technically sound. She sailed through her steps, never forgetting the subtle gestures, pauses and other Ashton details. Rhodes’s giant split leaps and precise double tours made his performance memorable.

Despite a few opening night jitters, the ensemble was impressive. Even the newest company members donned the Ashton upper body–bending and sweeping movement throughout. Samantha Benoit was fun and flirty with her two partners in the marathon pas de trois.

Next up was the highlight of the performance, and possibly that of the season thus far; the company premier of Paul Taylor’s “Brandenburgs,” set to Bach’s Brandenburg Concertos  No. 3 and No. 6. The classically trained Sarasota Ballet dancers took to the Taylor style entirely. They performed every turn, leap and fall with organic ease. Danielle Brown and Ellen Overstreet danced with pure joy and a wonderful breadth of movement. Marcelo Gomes was spectacular both in his solo section and while partnering with the three ladies. He mastered the demands of the choreography while defining the space around him.

The evening’s final piece was Dominic Walsh’s “I Napoletani.” Set to an assortment of music, including Pergolesi’s “Stabat Mater,” the ballet highlights aspects of Italian culture. First performed by the company in 2008, it’s nice to see Walsh using a mixture of newcomers and previous cast members. Highlights included Brown in Gomes in the touching “'O Surdato ’Nnammurato” pas de deux and Ricardo Graziano in the final solo, “O Sole Mio.” The entire ensemble brought an infectious energy to the fast-paced “Pizza” section.

“Redefined Movement” left us how every performance should — inspired, fulfilled and excited for the next.

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