Sarasota ballet honors influential choreographer with ‘A Tribute to Ashton’

Photo by Audrey Warne.
Photo by Audrey Warne.

The Sarasota Ballet honored the influential 20th century choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton with three performances of “Scènes de ballet” and “The Two Pigeons.” The shows took place on March 10 and 11 at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall.

Sir Frederick Ashton was an Ecuadorian dancer famous for his development of a uniquely British style of ballet as director of the Royal Ballet in London. According to the show’s program: “If any single artist can be said to have formulated a native English classical ballet style and developed it over a lifetime, it is Sir Frederick Ashton.”

The first piece, “Scènes de ballet,” was a one-act ballet created for Igor Stravinsky’s eponymous suite from 1944. First performed by the Sadler’s Wells Ballet at the Royal Opera House in London in 1948, the Sarasota Ballet is the first American company to have permission to dance the ballet. One of Ashton’s most innovative works, the ballet was created using a system of Euclidean geometry that allows the dancers to be seen from any angle. The piece mixes classical ballet technique with the choreography of Ashton’s contemporaries, such as modern dancer José Limón.

“The Two Pigeons” is a re-creation of a 19th century French ballet based on a fable by the same name. The Royal Ballet first performed the two-act ballet in 1961, and the Sarasota Ballet has been performing the piece intermittently since 2007. The piece is a problematic variation on the classical ballet storyline of a relationship between a Romani woman and a European man – though it does defy convention in that it actually features two live pigeons.

“The costumes were really nice, the second ones especially,” second-year Bri Luis said. “The Romani costumes – the fact that they were Romani is obviously problematic because they were appropriative – but the colors, and stuff, the way they were designed was really nice.”

The evening showings featured guest principal Marcelo Gomes of the American Ballet Theater as the Young Man in “The Two Pigeons.”  Originally from Brazil, Gomes has danced with American Ballet Theater, the Bolshoi Ballet, the Royal Ballet, the Dutch National Ballet, and New York City Ballet.

“I know very little of ballet, but very much enjoyed the two pieces that were put on, particularly ‘Scènes de ballet,’” second-year Andy Erickson said. “The second piece had trained pigeons which was interesting and I appreciated that the theater offered free tickets to New College students.”


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