Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dancing with a Star | American Ballet Theatre's Marcello Gomes Joins Local Company for All-Ashton Tribute

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Dancing with a Star | American Ballet Theatre's Marcello Gomes Joins Local Company for All-Ashton Tribute

Article excerpt

When Director Iain Webb took the reins of the Sarasota Ballet 10 years ago, he received offers from sev-eral

illustrious friends, celebrated stars of the ballet sphere, to perform as guest artists with his new

company. The former dancer with the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet turned them all down.

"They said, 'Use our name and you can build your company up that way,'" Webb recalls, "and it

would have been easy to do that. But I felt it was important to build the company first. You don't suddenly put a

penthouse suite on top and then work on the basement in a few years' time. I wanted to create a company that could

hold their own alongside the names of the day."

Apparently, that is now the case. American Ballet Theatre's Marcello Gomes, considered one of today's premiere male dancers, will guest star in this weekend's evening performances of Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Two Pigeons" partnering Sarasota Ballet principal Victoria Hulland. (The company's Ricardo Rhodes and Ryoko Sadoshima will perform the Saturday matinee.) The ballet is half of a "Tribute to Ashton" double bill that also includes "Scenes de Ballet," the 24th work by the British choreographer added to the repertoire since Webb's arrival and one which has never before been performed by an American company.

In January, Gomes performed in the company's "Celebration of Two Worlds" gala of music and dance, a one-night only fundraiser at the Sarasota Opera House that drew heavily for its roster of stars on Volpe's connections as the former managing director of the Metropolitan Opera. At the time there was no plan or intention to bring the charismatic Brazilian dancer back.

But, admiring Gomes's buoyant jumps and his personality on stage, Webb's wife, assistant director Margaret Barbieri, pictured him in the lead role of The Young Artist in the upcoming "The Two Pigeons." She confided the thought to her husband, who suggested, "Why don't you see if he's interested?" So, at the dinner following the gala, Barbieri popped the question "before the poor guy had even had a glass of wine," Webb recalls.

Gomes, who had not only never danced the Ashton

ballet but had never even seen it performed live, responded just as immediately and enthusiastically.

"For me it was a no brainer," says Gomes, who will celebrate 20 years with ABT in May. "Whenever you're asked to do an Ashton ballet that's not part of your company or repertoire, you want to jump on that opportunity. There is such history, such a legacy, that as a male dancer you want to be able to say you had the opportunity of doing those things. Anytime I have that chance, I'm going to try to clear my calendar."

Remarkably --"almost like magic," Gomes says -- he found the space within his typically frenetic schedule to make the commitment possible. In five days, over two visits to Sarasota within the last few weeks, he learned the two-act ballet in its entirety, a speed which he says is not unusual for him, though it does make him the target of some razzing at ABT.

"People make fun of me at ABT all the time because I like a lot of information at once and then to dissect it later," he says. "But it's wonderful to be with such talented dancers who are really hungry to dance and to work. I think it will be a wonderful exchange of knowledge. For me, being a part of the whole is as important as doing such a masterpiece."

For Hulland, who previously performed the role of The Young Girl in 2011 with Octavio Martin, learning that she would be performing with the dancer whose poster hung in her bedroom as a teenager was something she'd never imagined "in my wildest dreams. …

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