The Sarasota Ballet performed “Serendipitous Movement” this past weekend at the Sarasota Opera House, and it was a night of celebrations. We celebrated the return of the triple bill, lifted COVID restrictions and the final performance of a successful season.
We celebrated 15 incredible years under the leadership of Director Iain Webb.
And also a final bittersweet celebration as soloist Ryoko Sadoshima and principal Victoria Hulland gave their farewell performances.
The program opened with “Serenade,” the first original ballet George Balanchine created in America. “Serenade” is dance in the purest form. The famous Tchaikovsky score, a moonlit stage and a flock of dancers in soft blue costumes sweep you away.
Perhaps it was where I was sitting or the way the stage was lit, but from the moment the curtain opened Friday evening, my eye was drawn to Sadoshima. She stood out throughout the corps de ballet and Russian dance sections because of the absolute joy and freedom in her dancing.
During her 11-year career with the Sarasota Ballet, Sadoshima has been one of the strongest Balanchine technicians in the company. She has also shone in works by Sir Frederick Ashton and many other choreographers. Her most memorable performances were in Ashton’s “The Two Pigeons” and “Monotones 1,” Balanchine’s “Bugaku,” and Christopher Wheeldon’s “The American.”
Hulland and Ricardo Rhodes were the perfect waltz couple. Hulland, who joined the company 15 years ago and quickly rose to principal status, has danced almost every leading role in the company’s repertoire and become a favorite among audience members. She and Rhodes have frequently danced together during her career, and it was wonderful to witness the partnership one last time.
Next up was Mark Morris’ “Letter V.” Choreographed in 2015 for the Houston Ballet to Joseph Haydn’s Symphony No. 88 in G Major, the ballet is lovely and fresh. Morris strays from classical technique in the most playful ways: dangling arms, a slanted torso and a wave-like port de bras. Friday night’s cast nailed the movement and musicality, especially Emilia Perkins and Luke Schaufuss.
Maile Okamura’s mixed pattern, Kelly green costumes complement the four lively movements.
Kenneth MacMillan’s “Elite Syncopations” closed the evening with a stage full of brightly costumed dancers in front of a ragtime band. Each dancer takes their turn dancing to rags by Scott Joplin and others. Marijana Dominis was sensual and stellar in Calliope Rag.
Sadoshima and Schaufuss were adorable in all their confusion in “The Golden Hours.” We also got one last look at Sadoshima’s extraordinary lines. You couldn’t miss Hulland in her sparkly hat and innocent sexiness in both “Stop-Rag Time” and “Bethena, A Concert Waltz.” Lastly, newcomer Arcadian Broad was outstanding (and one to watch) in “Friday Nights.”
Flowers, roaring applause and tears flooded the Opera House during the bows. For two very special dancers, the curtain came down one last time. Ryoko and Victoria, thank you for sharing your gifts and filling our hearts. Congratulations and brava!
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