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surprise, at the last moment, Danielle Brown and Ricardo Rhodes returned center stage, and emotion seeped into their connection. They stood quietly, facing one another, as if whatever tension between them had been resolved. As she gently laid her face against his shoulder, he held her tightly in a strong embrace while the overhead twinkling lights slowly descended from high above the stage. Perhaps the lack of emotion throughout the ballet until this embrace added to its power. No question, Graziano is young and talented, and in choreographing this spare terse ballet without softening its edges, he showed that he is not afraid to continue following his cre- ative star wherever it leads. Sir Frederick Ashton has said that he had always wanted to use Erik Satie's music for a ballet, but not until the moon landings in the 1960s did he find a way. Monotones I and II are the result. I discovered these meditative, poetic ballets that unfold like a dreamscape in a performance by the Joffrey Company many years ago, and they have been lodged in my memory ever since. In Sarasota Ballet's Monotones I, three danc- ers — Ryoko Sadoshima, Alex Harrison and Samantha Benoit, wearing shimmering uni- tards and small beanie hats — responded to the eerie wispy melody of the Satie score in slow sculptural movements. The girls were exquisite in the controlled balances that kept them, for one example, as still as a sculptured form and, again, as the trio walked hand and hand, their arms circling around and out as if scooping up the music. The contrast between the controlled ara- besques and the pulse of the rippling music created a feeling that these dancers existed in another galaxy where time and space melted into one another. While Monotones II, which is more acrobatic, opened with a boneless Victoria Hulland and two men (Ricardo Graziano and Ricardo Rhodes) who played with her as if she were a tumbling doll. They turned her upside down on one strong toe, her other leg shooting straight up to her ear. In another instant, they locked hands and walked together sideways in silhouette as if walking through space or caught on a frieze from an Egyptian tomb. That sense of unlocked time flowed through- out the two pieces, as the choreography reflected the beautiful simple melodies and rhythm of the mystical Satie score. The actual steps could be classroom exercises — here a slow glissade, there an arabesque — but performed in unison as the dancers wound in and out of a variety of patterns across the stage, the steps became a way for the dancers to converse with the music and the audience. Together, the two ballets were a challenge for the dancers' technique and for their abil- ity to hold slow sustained balances without showing the effort needed not to quiver or move that is essential for establishing the simple beauty of these special rare ballets that reveal Sir Frederick Ashton's versatility as a choreographer. Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb has said he is interested in preserving the past and invest- ing in the future of ballet, and this program certainly reflects that focus. However, with the Ashton Festival on the horizon and with an Ashton ballet on every program, I have to wonder about next year's performances. % Sarasota News Leader March 7, 2014 Page 111

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