The production celebrated Ricardo Graziano's 10 years at the Sarasota Ballet with three of his works.
Ten years ago, Ricardo Graziano joined the Sarasota Ballet. In 2011, he choreographed his first ballet for the company, and in 2014, Iain Webb made him resident choreographer. This past weekend, the Sarasota Ballet opened its 29th season with a tribute to Graziano through the reprise of three of his works. "Graziano, Retrospective" was performed Oct. 25-27 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.
“Shostakovich Suite” was a fitting way to open the evening because it was the first that Graziano choreographed for the Sarasota Ballet. The stage was simply set with beautiful chandeliers and Aaron Muhl’s bright lighting design. The large cast, 18 women in varying shades of pink tutus and nine men, was an opportunity to showcase some of the company’s newest talent. The entire cast was well rehearsed and full of spirit. Technique was clean, footwork was crisp and in unison even when the choreography was blindingly quick. Principal couples were performed by Asia Bui and Filippo Valmorbida, Katelyn May and Luke Schaufuss, and Ryoko Sadoshima and Yuri Marques. Sadoshima’s stunning lines are always a showstopper; she and Bui were a perfect pair for the pique turn sequence in the finale. May was neat and precise in her solo sections and was partnered nicely by Schauffuss, who, making his debut as principal dancer, did not disappoint. Another newcomer standout was soloist Marijana Dominis.
Next on the bill was “En Las Calles de Murcia.” First performed and last seen in March 2015, the ballet features six couples who perform grounded steps with a Spanish flare. The sensual pas de deux between Danielle Brown and Richard House fully captured the mood of the music by Santiago de Murcia. Brown, along with Kate Honea, Amy Wood and Elizabeth Sykes, are seasoned in Graziano’s style and fully embraced the movement. Ivan Duarte stood out among the men and during his pas de trois with Sykes and Dominis. Another highlight was Honea’s joyful romp with the men.
Closing out the performance was “In a State of Weightlessness,” Graziano’s most celebrated work. After its premier at Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival in August 2015, the ballet quickly became a favorite. The five couples enter and exit the stage and perform a sequence of pas de deuxs. Each brought a unique quality and created the most breathtaking shapes through the fluid, almost magical transitions. The minimal costumes allow you to focus on the movement, which brilliantly guided us through the Philip Glass music.
Throughout the evening, there was an amazing energy both on stage and in the seats. Perhaps it was the pride and passion for Graziano’s success beaming from the dancers and the audience alike. Maybe it was the excitement that the ballet season has just kicked off. Maybe it was both. Nonetheless, I’m anxious to see what the Sarasota Ballet has in store for us and to see Webb and the dancers raise the bar yet again this year.