Friday, June 2, 2017

Sarasota Social Diary: The Ballet’s spring gala

Danielle Brown, Ricki Bertoni, Executive Director Joseph Volpe, Board Member and Gala Chair Sydney Goldstein, Director Iain Webb, Jamie Carter, Amy Wood, Ricardo Rhodes, Christine Windsor, Victoria Hulland, and Kate Honea. All dancers pictured have been with the Company since Iain became Director 10 years ago (with the exception of Kate who has been with the Company for 15 years).
by Geraldine Fabrikant

The Sarasota Ballet has won its place on the national map
with rave reviews from the New York Times’ critic Alastair Macauley and coveted spots at Jacob’s Pillow summer dance festival and Manhattan’s City Center Fall for Dance Program. Buoyed by director Iain Webb’s passion for Sir Frederick Aston’s works, the ballet has garnered audience and critical support.

Nowhere was that more evident than at the Ballet’s spring gala at Ringling Museum’s Asolo theatre where 250 guests had an irresistible aperitif of seven performances by members of the ballet company along with guest appearances by dancers from the Miami and Boston ballets, followed by a dinner served under an adjacent tent as ballerinas in long evening gowns, joined the crowd.
Dinner was served under a tent adjacent to the Ringling Museum’s Asolo theatre.
Because the ballet has grown to such prominence under Mr. Webb, who has been its director for the past decade, the evening was billed as: “Celebrating a Decade of Webb.”    

Clearly Mr. Webb was moved by the accolades when he came out on the stage to loud applause from the audience and eagerly embraced the star dancers.  That applause was hardly the evening’s only endorsement for the director. Executive Director Joe Volpe, the well known former General Manager of the Metropolitan Opera, announced that Mr. Webb had signed another 10-year contract with the ballet.

Mr. Volpe, who spent summers as a child in St. Petersburg, had originally come to Sarasota for winters because he is an avid boater. Because his wife Jean is a former soloist with the Metropolitan Opera Ballet Company, he thought he would boost Sarasota’s appeal to his wife if he joined the board of the ballet and enmeshed their lives in a world she loves.  At first he was a board member, then an interim executive director and the ballet’s executive director, having stepped down from the board.
Joseph Volpe, Jean Volpe, Margaret Barbieri, and Iain Webb.
Armed with a humongous rolodex compiled over years at the Metropolitan, he sought out Marcelo Gomes, the lead dancer of the American Ballet Theater, to dance at the ballet’s newly created January fundraiser billed at a Celebration of the Two Worlds: with Fredericka Von Stade, Marcello Gomes, Gillian Murphy Daniil Simkin and the composer Jake Heggie.    

The January 8th performance was itself a success with Mr. Gomes dancing the balcony scene from Romeo and Juliet with the American Ballet Theater’s Gillian Murphy.

But as these things go, it was not the performance, but the dinner at the Ritz Carlton following the performance that led to Mr. Gomes’s rejoining the company for yet another event in March. Seated next to Iain Webb’s wife, the ballerina Margaret Barbieri, she quickly asked him whether he would be interested in dancing the lead in Sir Frederick’s “The Two Pigeons.”  While Mr. Gomes knew of the ballet , he had never even seen it performed.
Kate Honea, Marcelo Gomes, and Edward Gonzalez in Sir Frederick Ashton's The Two Pigeons, Act II. Photos: Frank Atura.
Mr. Webb and Ms. Barbieri had been eager to find a young dancer for the role. “They themselves had learned it from Sir Frederick Aston which was why Marcelo Gomes was eager to learn it from them,” said Marjorie Floyd, the ballet’s head of marketing and development. So Mr. Gomes agreed to return to dance with Sarasota star Victoria Hulland. “Whenever you are asked to do a Frederick Ashton ballet that is not part of your company’s repertoire, you want to jump on the opportunity,” Mr. Gomes stated on a Facebook post.
Victoria Hulland & Marcelo Gomes in The Two Pigeons, Act II.
Indeed the thread that seemed to pull everything together the other night was “The Two Pigeons,” a two act love story. At the recent gala, co-chairman Sydney Goldstein, looking regal in a sleek red organdy gown with pearls, who had been on the original search committee that eventually hired Mr. Webb recalled that during their meeting she had requested of Mr. Webb: “sell me a ballet.”  He talked about “The Two Pigeons.”  As it turned out, that was one of her favorite ballets and helped convince her that he was the right person to lead the company.
Sydney Goldstein (Board Member and Gala Chair) and Vivian Kouvant (Gala Co Chair).
Some of the highlights at the Asolo were the Flames of Paris Duet danced by Sarasota Ballet’s Nicole Padilla and Ivan Duarte.  But others too made their appearance with Simone Messmer and Rainer Krenstetter from the Miami Ballet dancing “Grand Pas Classique.”  A scene from Le Corsaire, staged by Ms. Barbieri, was danced gloriously by Misa Kuranaga, principle dancer of the Boston Ballet and the Sarasota Ballet’s principal dancer Ricardo Rhodes. The presence of the Miami Ballet’s dancers particularly underscored the fervor for ballet in the two cities. “The flame of inspiration passes from place to place,” Mr. Macauley has written. ”Today I am tempted to ask if the torch is passing to Florida.”
Nicole Padilla and Ivan Duarte in Flames of Paris.
The Sarasota Ballet in Will Tuckett's Changing Light.
Misa Kuranaga and Ricardo Rhodes in Le Corsaire.
Guests at the gala included not only ballet lovers such as Richard and Peggy Hayes, Claudia McCorkle and of course, Mrs. Goldstein’s co-chairman Vivian Kouvant, but also Misaki Satake and Asia Bui, who dance with the ballet.

As the guests prepared to dine under the tent, the crowd’s enthusiasm for the ballet was evident as the ballerinas joined the tables for dinner amist great applause.
Dancers Asia Bui and Misaki Satake. Joe Volpe and Claudia McCorkle.
Audrey Robbins (Board Member), Jessica Hershey, Lisa Walsh, Tracey Maradei Tucci, and Emily Walsh.
Stephen Fillo, Jane Gould, and Robert Metz. Katherine and Frank Martucci (Board Member).
Kim Fulcher, Kevin Fulcher, and Pat Golemme (Board Member).
Kay Delaney and Murray Bring. Nancy Markle.
Richard and Peggy Hayes.
Iain Webb and Jean Weidner Goldstein (Founder). Jean Weidner Goldstein and Pavel Fomin (Ballet Master, who has been with the Company since its founding).
Colleen Tobin, Margery Barancik, Teri Hansen, and Charles Barancik.
Photographs by Cliff Roles & Geraldine Fabrikant (gala); Frank Atura (performance)