By MARTY CLEAR
I once saw a sign in a nearby bar that read, "There will be a $5 charge for us to listen to you talk about how much better things are in New York."
It's a truism that New Yorkers don't like to praise anything that is outside New York. It's true generally, and even truer when it comes to the arts. If you say your hometown has something great, a New Yorker will say that on his or her block there's something better.
Before New Yorkers write me nasty emails, I want point out that I love New York, that my parents, brother and sister are all from New York, and my sister still lives there, and I genuinely think it's one of the two or three greatest cities in the world. New Yorkers have a sense of superiority about their city, and although it's sometimes annoying, it's usually justifiable.
The reason I'm talking about this is that Alistair Macaulay, arguably the most important dance critic in the country, and one of the most important in the English-speaking world, has enthused about Sarasota Ballet in the pages of New York's most venerable newspaper.
He wrote last Sunday about "Ballet Across America," a triennial program at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., that brings together nine select ballet companies from around the country. Each company presents a single one-act ballet, and three companies perform on a triple-bill on each of three different programs.
We can all be proud that our Sarasota Ballet was one of only nine chosen to be a part of such a prestigious national event. Other companies in this "Ballet Across America" included the Washington Ballet and Dance Theatre of Harlem, which has recently returned to the stage in triumph after a voluntary hiatus.
But when you live on this peninsula, hundreds of miles away from the nearest state border, and you're not treated to a regular diet of major ballet companies from elsewhere, it's easy to lose sight of how exceptional Sarasota Ballet truly is.
The Sarasota Ballet is the only company among the nine that Macaulay talked about in his review of "Ballet Across America." Here
is just a bit of what he wrote:
"At the Kennedy Center on Saturday (the Sarasota Ballet) danced Ashton's endearing 1937 masterpiece 'Les Patineurs.' William Chappell's original designs rightly won a burst of applause from the audience: their depth, detail and color still enchant. The company danced this ballet well when I saw it in Sarasota in December 2008 -- and what was good has now developed into the marvelous.
"This 'Patineurs' is a miracle of style. Hard to believe though this sounds, the dancers perform it with an understanding that surpasses the Royal Ballet's and with a warmth that makes its charm breathe from within."
Sarah Kaufman of the Washington Post was similarly effusive, calling the Sarasota Ballet's performance the "jewel" of "Dance Across America." She noted that achievement is all the more remarkable because the Sarasota Ballet has the smallest budget of any of the nine companies in this year's event.
The word "awesome" has lost a lot of its power due to its colloquial overuse in recent years, but for important critics to praise our own ballet company that way is, in the literal sense of the word, awesome.
Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-748-0411, ext. 7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.