With ‘Summertide’ and ‘Nine Sinatra Songs,’ Sarasota Ballet dancers create memorable evening

Second casts shines, along with principals

Janae Korte, Claire Glavin, Luke Schaufuss and Daniel Pratt perform a scene in Sir Peter Wright’s Summertide. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

I have to admit that it was odd to be standing in the midst of a masked group of people, many from a much earlier generation, waiting in the lobby for the doors to open within the Sarasota Opera House.

This, obviously, was a group more interested in connecting once again with two popular ballets than in wasting energy by protesting. However, when I checked the premier dates on both ballets, Summertide (1976) and Nine Sinatra Songs (1982), it was as if the proverbial clock had been left in 20th century nostalgia. Both ballets harkened to a time that was less defined by our digital age and less affected by the ongoing pandemic.

Once seated, I opened my program to check the casting and saw new names of young dancers who had joined The Sarasota Ballet during the last two years. As this was a matinee performance, it was an opportunity for second cast dancers to shine and shine they did as I was about to see.

Luke Schaufuss and Daniel Pratt in Summertide. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

Margaret Barbieri, now assistant director of The Sarasota Ballet, was a young dancer when Sir Peter Wright choreographed Summertide, which is set to Mendelsson’s powerful Piano Concerto No. 2. With the help of Sir Peter Wright, Barbieri first revived the ballet in 2015; now again, she has set this intriguing mix of glorious music; clean, fluid, classical choreography; and Dick Bird’s innovative world of billowing fabric to delight audiences with a ballet that tickles the imagination with the idea of a mythic landscape. The music has a mesmerizing passion that the choreography mirrors in the continuous movement of the dancers. Over and over, yearning arms stretch into space; solos merge into duets, and then dancers merge into groups, part, and again reunite as the women run off and on the stage like a series of nymphs while the billowing set defines the time from day to night.

Ricardo Graziano was the male lead in all three movements of the ballet and partner to an incandescent Ryoko Sadoshima in the 2nd Movement. She has an ease in her dancing and moves through the backbends, pirouettes and lifts with a suppleness like a leaf falling through the air.

Danielle Brown, Juliano Weber and Thomas Leprohon in Sir Peter Wright’s Summertide. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

In Summertide’s final, 3rd Movement, the entire cast of 13 dancers come together in joyous leaps to celebrate this ballet’s harmonious, abstract vision of music and dance.

Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs, restaged by Shelley Washington for this performance, brought elegance, sophistication, and energy to the stage. The ballet’s premise is simple: nine songs interpreted by a variety of dancers on a bare stage lit by an overhead crystal ball with the recorded voice of Frank Sinatra adding an emotional punch.

Sarasota Ballet members perform a scene in Twyla Tharp’s Nine Sinatra Songs. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

As I started to check the list of songs, beginning with Softly As I Leave You, then Strangers In The Night, followed by My Way and six others, I could hear these songs in my mind. Perhaps, I got caught up in a moment’s nostalgia, but it is hard to turn away from the combination of Sinatra’s throbbing interpretation of these romantic songs and Tharp’s sensitive exploration of love stories told in eight duets. These are couples who come together in choreography that is based on traditional ballroom dances but dissected and restructured in a way that melts into the music.

Tharp’s choreography is based on real emotions, and perhaps that is why the dancers appeared to be real people sorting out their lives. Though each of the difficult, tricky duets was performed with panache, a few were my favorites, probably because the songs were more familiar.

Danielle Brown has always been able to create drama and here, in a one-shoulder red dress, she and partner Ricardo Rhodes dove into the melodramatic rendering of That’s Life. Paige Young and Andrea Marcelletti amused in Something Stupid, with Young’s flexed feet and hands mimicking a department store model and Marcelletti carrying her inert form around the stage. Emelia Perkins and Arcadian Broad had a light-hearted interpretation of the lively Forget Domani.

Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes shine in Nine Sinatra Songs. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

Taylor Sambola and Mihai Costache added a dash of sexual tension to their duet set to One For My Baby (And One More For The Road).

And as the curtain fell after the last song, a group dance of the cast of 14 ensued — Asia Bui, Daniel Pratt, Janae Korte, Thomas Leprohon, Sambola, Costache, Young, Marcelletti, Claire Glavin, Harvey Evans, Perkins and Broad joined in with Brown and Rhodes. The cast filled the stage while a second rendering of My Way filled the air.

Marijana Dominis and Ricardo Graziano in Nine Sinatra Songs. Contributed photo by Frank Atura, courtesy of Sarasota Ballet

I had one thought: “Again … from the top.” I was ready to see the entire ballet once more.