August 21, 2018
In the 1970’s, the Joffrey Ballet under the direction of Bob Joffrey built up an “Ashton wing” of ballets. This American company made it possible for Americans to view Ashton’s elegantly constructed and witty ballets.
Now, the Sarasota Ballet under the direction of Iain Webb has acquired a collection of Ashton ballets, and those in NYC had the good fortune of seeing them during their Joyce season.
When Monotones I and II as well as Les Patineurs first appeared in NYC, it caused superlatives to spill off many a critic’s page. Witnessing Monotones I and II is a like a study in choreographic clarity. Crystalline movements are offset by spare lighting highlighting skintight unitards and snug skullcaps of the same shiny, stretchy material. Monotones II was created first with two men (Jamie Carter and Daniel Pratt) and one woman (Amy Wood) and Monotones I mirrors the choreography with two women (Kate Honea and Katelyn May) and one man (Nicolas Moreno).
In both ballets, the men and women repeat lean, angular gestures—stretching legs and arms that form geometric shapes. Overall, the sensation is of planets rotating in separate orbits and coordinated by one single cosmos. Adding to the celestial metaphor is Eric Satie’s ethereal music.
In contrast to this modernist ballet is an excerpt from the charming Les Patineurs featuring the “the jumping boy” with two lovely ballerinas in full white skirts, black fit jackets, furry hats and black toe shoes that look like little booties. He (Ivan Durate) jumps and twirls while the two women (Asia Bui and Samantha Benoit) slide side by side—in fact, one wonders why an ice dance company never staged this for real ice dancers.
There’s the humorous La Chattethat’s an extended play on a cat’s (Kate Honea) seductive unfolding and mercurial emotions. Meditation From Thais with Ryoko Asadoshima and Ricardo Graziano displays Mideastern exoticism as designed at the turn of the 19th century to the utterly lush Meditation by Jules Massenet.
But one of the program’s most anticipated moments arrived when the great classical dancer of marked theatricality and astounding partnering, Marcello Gomes, returned to the NYC stage in The Two Pigeons with Victoria Hulland. His pleasing classicism, and gallant engagement was fully evident. Although the ballet is not technically demanding, it does require an eloquence born of grace—as do many of Ashton’s ballets.
EYE ON THE ARTS, NY -- Celia Ipiotis