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Three-part program moves audiences with stylistic, emotional leaps

The Sarasota Ballet is renowned both nationally and internationally for its exciting programming.

Its program November 22-24, titled “Symphonic Tales,” was no exception. The bold triple bill, featuring a revival of George Balanchine’s “Theme and Variations,” Kenneth MacMillan’s “Las Hermanas” and the company premier of Balanchine’s “Western Symphony,” was a ballet fan’s dream come true. “Symphonic Tales” was performed Friday and Saturday at the Sarasota Opera House with accompaniment byThe Sarasota Orchestra, led by Ormsby Wilkin.

“Theme and Variations,” first performed by the Sarasota Ballet in 2017, is a true test of classical technique. Friday evening’s cast was in excellent form. The corps de ballet, looking better than ever this season, danced with precision and panache. Kate Honea and Ricardo Rhodes performed the challenging main pas de deux with amplitude and joy. Honea was superb in the principal ballerina’s incredibly fast solo sections. The only challenge for the ensemble, especially during the finale, was the limited space on the Opera House stage.

The night took a dramatic turn with “Las Hermanas.” An adaptation of Federico Garcia Lorna’s play, “The House of Bernarda Alba,” the story is of a widowed mother in mourning with her five daughters. The ballet is a whirlwind of emotions, ending with the youngest sister taking her life.

The contrast in personalities between the eldest and youngest sisters is shown through the rich detail in Macmillan’s choreography. Danielle Brown brilliantly portrayed the awkward eldest sister. She and the devious leading man (Marcelo Gomes) danced an intense pas de deux creating an almost violent feeling.

The youngest sister was performed with passion and reckless abandon by Ellen Overstreet. Victoria Hulland, typically not cast in character roles, was excellent as the domineering mother. Frank Martin’s score, featuring a solo harpsichord, added to the eerie, oppressive atmosphere.

No better way to lift spirits than with Balanchine’s “Western Symphony.” With men in hats and women in frilly dancehall costumes, the Sarasota Ballet’s first attempt at this fun-loving ballet full of cowboy swagger did not disappoint. The opening allegro was led with exuberance by Brown and Ricardo Graziano. Standing out in the corps de ballet was Lauren Ostrander, who is a natural at the Balanchine style. Katelyn Mae and Ricki Bertoni were wildly charming in the adagio section. The rousing rondo was danced with high energy by Luke Schaufuss and the entire cast. Balanchine’s tribute to the old west and salute to Americana capped the evening with a bang.

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