Fall Discoveries

Another Fall for Dance festival has come and gone, with the usual highs and lows. The biggest discovery for me came in the final program, which I saw last Sunday (Oct. 19). After an aggressive, dystopian Wayne McGregor piece for his company Random Dance (Far) and a pretty pas de deux by Pontus Lidberg (This Was Written on Water) for Isabella Boylston and James Whiteside came Aakash Odedra, a young English-born dancer of South Asian descent. Odedra specializes in kathak and barata natyam, two classical Indian dance forms. He has also collaborated with a long list of contemporary choreographers including Akram Khan, Sidi Larbi Cherkaoui, and Russell Maliphant. His solo, “Nritta,” was thrilling. It had the speed, spins, and silvery quality of kathak, and the attack and lightness of kuchipudi. Odedra never seemed to stop for breath, driving forward with crackling energy, engaging in a kind of witty repartée with the music. He recently received a Bessie Award for his part in a  James Brown tribute at the Apollo last year, Get on the Good Foot. I can’t wait to see more of him. Here he is in a 2011 solo:

Another high-point of the festival, at least for me, was Sarasota Ballet’s turn in Frederick Ashton’s Les Patineurs at the same performance. Inspired by Victorian skating parties, this 1937 ballet is a charmer. Groups skate on and off, a pair of girls skitters and falls, a haughty couple engages in a showy pas de deux. It’s a little twee, but knowingly so. You get the sense that Ashton js having a bit of fun with the whole idea. The technical challenges are considerable, too, and the company acquitted itself with assurance and aplomb.

Beforehand, I moderated a discussion with the company’s artistic director and assistant artistic director (Iain Webb and Margaret Barbieri), the dancer Amy Wood, and Ashton biographer David Vaughan. You can read some tidbits from that talk here.

Nicole Padilla and Cate Honea in Ashton's "Les Patineurs." Photo by Frank Atura
Nicole Padilla and Cate Honea in Ashton’s “Les Patineurs.” Photo by Frank Atura

Ashton in Sarasota

Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations. © Frank Atura.
Sarasota Ballet in Frederick Ashton’s Illuminations.
© Frank Atura.

I’m just back from the Ashton festival at Sarasota Ballet, a four-day tribute to the choreographer. Under the directorship of Iain Webb, the company has been undergoing a major expansion over the past few years. By any measure, the festival was a big success, with strong performances, expressive dancing, and a powerful sense of style and common purpose.

You can read my review for DanceTabs here.

And a short excerpt: “The advantage of putting all these ballets on the stage in quick succession is that the audience begins to see all sorts of interconnections and motifs running through the works. Thus, in Monotones II (1965), there is an echo of the slow trio near the beginning of Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, in which a woman is slowly revolved by two men and shown from all angles, the center of a slow-moving planetary system.”