By Rodger Skidmore
Top of the pyramid
Pablo Picasso did not start off painting misshapen faces, he first perfected basic techniques by drawing in the classical style. It is the same with modern and contemporary dance, first learn the basics of classical ballet and, when perfected, change from there – or, perhaps stay with the classics because of its beauty and charm. There are a number of ballet classes and schools in Sarasota and one of the best is the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School.
In 1993 Cuban ballet stars Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez defected to the USA. This was akin to Nureyev and Baryshnikov defecting from Russia. It seems to happen, with truly great stars, once every generation or so.
After he sustained a back injury, Ariel and Wilmian started their ballet school and now he and his staff teach hundreds of ballet students of all ages. The students, placed in classes with their peers – relative to age, ability, and aspiration – receives the attention needed to move them as far forward as ability and drive can take them. One student, Francisco Serrano (Spoiler Alert: Yes, Ariel’s son) was recently chosen by the Royal Ballet and will perform in London next season.
Observing a Pre-Professional class at the school brought forth these random thoughts: holding a pose down to the fingertips; striking vs. beautiful; extreme focus; give on landing; musculature; teaching stability; the ability to feel one’s center even when moving; launch, turn, land. Watching some students with great ability perfect their skills and watching less able students perfect themselves.
So, how can we tell how well these students perform? This summer some really motivated ballet students will be training for the Student Showcase being held at the Sarasota Opera House at 2 p.m. on July 29. It will be Sarasota’s chance to see the ballet version of the Perlman Music Festival. One will see students who have mastered their craft and who are ready to be seen by the world (or at least Sarasota) as ballet stars in the making. Taking their regular classes and then participating in the Summer Intensive gives them a broad enough base of ballet skills to build quite a tall pyramid. Someone at the top of that pyramid will appear at the Opera House the next night in the Performance Gala. That will be when Francisco returns from Havana and London to dance the lead in the ballet Paquita. Top students from the National Ballet School of Cuba will also perform.
Don’t know enough about Cuban Ballet? Miguel Carera, the historian of the National Ballet of Cuba, will be lecturing at the school on July 22 – 24 to bring everyone up to speed on that aspect of Cuban art. Will all of this make you want to see the 25th Cuban International Ballet Festival in Havana? Well, the school will be taking a group there October 29 thru November 5. Information about all classes, locations, times, tickets, lectures and the tour may be found at SarasotaCubanBalletSchool.com or by calling (941) 365-8400.
Sure would be great to escape from it all. You, gentle reader, get to define what it is that you, specifically, would like to get away from. To paraphrase the French, “to each his own distaste”. For some it is the summer heat; for others, the season of bad fish (Indian for “red tide”); and for some, the political season that keeps on giving (American vernacular for “the season of bad fish”). But what to do, and where to go? Some splash in the gulf, others escape with a splash of tonic, still others with a few splashes of color. What better place to go for that color than to an art gallery. Many galleries do a one person show. And that is great – perhaps a retrospective – an arc of an artist’s life. Or it could be that artist’s new works – be in the moment. Another way is the themed show, and that is what is currently on display thru the end of the month at the Allyn Gallup Contemporary Art Gallery at 1288 N. Palm Avenue, just North of Main Street. Not one artist, but twenty-four. Not one medium but fifteen – powder coated steel, acrylic on canvas, oil on panel, etchings, pencil and powdered graphite on paper, clay with fired glazes, etc. Yet all on one varied / inclusive subject – the Great Escape. This covers, according to Sheila Moore, the gallery owner, “landscapes, seascapes and dreamscapes”. Discuss any of the artists, topics, approaches to art, periods, or nuances and she will reply “Not only ….., but even …..”.
Yes, this being Sarasota, you can go see the show, and other galleries downtown, on the first Friday in July – that would be July 1. Odds are that you’ve already missed it. Time passes so quickly as you age – the first of the month is gone before the first week is half over. But with this kind of show, curated by Mark Ormond, that is fine. Instead of jostling others to see a painting (or worse yet, being jostled) on Sarasota’s First Friday Art Walk, you can go to this gallery on any Tuesday thru Saturday from 11 a.m. until 5 p.m. and see a great variety of really good art. As Ms. Moore would say “Not only Sarasota artists and Florida artists but even artists from Brooklyn”. The mixed media collage of Tom Judd, the acrylic and aerosol enamel on canvas of Syd Solomon, the aluminum / acrylic sculpture of Jorge Blanco or the acrylic on canvas with paint pen of Susan Klein – all will take you away from wherever it is that you don’t wish to be. And unlike the nice art on the walls of the Ringling Museum, at the Gallup, you can take away the things that really blow you away.
Back in the day, sailing on the Queen Mary was a way to be transported to England. So being transported to Heaven on most any old day is very special indeed. The West Coast Black Theater Troupe is performing How I Got Over: A Tribute to Mahalia Jackson for a full month (Wednesdays thru Sundays, from July 13 thru August 14). The Sunday performances are at 2 p.m. so you can sleep in, have a tasty brunch or binge watch some Verizon commercials and then motor over to the theater at 1646 10th Way, off Orange, north of 10th Street and catch the soul train just as its leaving the station.
This is another Nate Jacobs special so don’t let it leave without you. Ms. Jackson was the Queen of Gospel and this show has her front and center along with other gospel greats. His Eye is on the Sparrow and Move On Up a Little Higher will get you and everyone else in the audience moving. As she passed away over 44 years ago it is doubtful that many of us actually heard her in person. Watching old kinescopes on YouTube really don’t do her justice. See this tribute to her now. Tickets at (941) 366-1505.