So when he came to Sarasota to work with a relatively small, up-and-coming ballet company, made up largely of younger dancers, maybe he wasn’t expecting too much. But he was awfully impressed with what he saw.
“I think these are dancers that are just as talented as the dancers in any of the major companies,” Gomes said
The dancers he’s talking about are, of course, members of the Sarasota Ballet. Gomes will be appearing this weekend with the Sarasota Ballet for a program called “A Tribute to Ashton.” It comprises two works by the seminal British choreographer Frederick Ashton, “Scenes de Ballet” and “The Two Pigeons.” Gomes will be dancing the role of the Young Man in the two evening performances. (Another dancer will take the role for Saturday’s matinee.)
The story of “The Two Pigeons” comes from a French fable. It was turned into a ballet first in the 19th century, and then Ashton re-choreographed it using the same music in 1961.
It’s a heart-rending story, a touching story about love and what it takes to get it.
The story has to do with a painter who is working on a portrait of his lover when he is distracted by another woman and some intruding gypsies.
“It’s a heart-rending story,” Gomes said, “a touching story about love and what it takes to get it.”
Ballet isn’t ideal as a form of story-telling, and in a lot of narrative ballets, all but the most basic plot elements can be hard to discern. That’s not the case in “The Two Pigeons,” Gomes said. Ashton always makes sure that the choreography keeps the storyline clear, which adds to the emotional effect of the dance.
“That is what is so great about Ashton’s work, his narrative work,” Gomes said. “If we, as dancers, do our jobs, you’ll be able to follow the story.”
Ashton is a favorite choreographer of the Sarasota Ballet, and Gomes had never danced “Two Pigeons” before. Gomes said the young dancers in the Sarasota Ballet were able to teach him a little bit about Ashton’s particular vocabulary and helped inform his performance.
“I have absolutely learned from them,” he said.
I have absolutely learned from them.
Gomes said he was also impressed with the versatility of the dancers of the Sarasota Ballet. It’s a relatively small company with a penchant for performing a wide stylistic variety, so dancers can’t specialize. He’s found the dancers he’s worked with to be comfortable in performing that wide range.
Praise from Gomes should mean something to the Sarasota Ballet. He’s a principal dancer with ABT, not just a rank-and-file dancer. The ballet critic for the New York Times described him as ABT’s “central artist, the most natural dance-actor, the greatest of all partners.”
The Sarasota Ballet performed “The Two Pigeons” a decade ago, in Iain Webb’s first season as director.
The other piece on this weekend’s program, “Scenes de Ballet,” is being performed for the first time by an American company. It’s been called one of Ashton’s greatest masterpieces. It uses geometrical patterns so that it looks ideal from any angle, which established a pattern for his subsequent works.
Incidentally, the 50 dancers of the Sarasota Ballet voted last week to join the American Guild of Musical Artists, the most prominent American labor union for dancers and opera singers. The union also represents the New York City Ballet, Alvin Ailey American Dance Theatre and American Ballet Theatre.