Sarasota Opera House
August 17, 2013

Reviewed by Marie J. Kilker

Highlighting the third annual Carreno Dance Festival of Stars, the titled dancer and his former American Ballet Theatre co-star Julie Kent repartnered in a dramatic romance that distilled the complete operetta, The Merry Widow, in one wordless sequence. The scene: a nightclub with three spotless white-clothed tables set with large clear glasses and bottles of champagne. A vision in ruffled chiffon gown embellished with feathers of non-traditional white, the heroine thus seemed ready to shed widowhood. Gracefully advancing on the table far opposite from the entrance, she was pursued by a suave Danillo and taken into his arms and swept off her feet. Both seemed to float on air, with the blue backdrop simulating sky, twirling back to the first table, pouring champagne, and lifting the glasses high. The dramatic conclusion came with toasting from other highs, linking arms, drinking to each other from each other's glass. With glasses flung in abandon, so did the widow abandon herself in the arms of Danillo to taste a finalizing kiss.

The star appearance centered an introductory abstract series of dances in A Contemporary Mood by students of the Sarasota International Dance Festival's Mentoring Program, under the direction of Robert de Warren. Six appeared as Festival Stars of Tomorrow, leading Summer Intensive students.  Members of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School,  pre-professional dancers, also attended and supported the program.  Finally, The Sleeping Beauty Suite, adapted by the Program's faculty was performed with each part (Prologue, Rose Adagio, Grand Waltz, The Jewels, Pas de Charactere, Blue Birds, and Wedding Pas de Deux) in costume. Tchaidovsky's music and Marius Petipa's choreography were maintained with limited visual narrative but exciting adherence to classical form.

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