BAR HARBOR — For those who have never been to the ballet, the performances by the Sarasota Ballet planned for this weekend at the Criterion Theatre should be an accessible, enjoyable place to start. The program spans a century of ballet and highlights artists who, like those involved in this year’s many Acadia Centennial celebrations, create exciting new work by drawing inspiration from history.
Performances are set for Friday, Aug. 19, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, Aug. 20, at 2 p.m.
The program will include a world premiere of a ballet created in honor of the Acadia Centennial. “Sonata in Four Movements,” choreographed by company member Ricardo Graziano, joins the ranks of original artworks in nearly every medium celebrating Acadia. The music was composed by Portland-native John Knowles Paine.
Paine, born in 1839, was inducted posthumously into the American Classical Music Hall of Fame in 1998 along with composers Aaron Copland, Leonard Bernstein and Igor Stravinsky.
Those Hall of Fame classmates are a good clue to the toe-tapping tone of the rest of the ballet program; in fact, some of the same familiar tunes played by the Town Band over on the Village Green will be heard in the ballet performance.
The program includes George Balanchine’s 1958 “Stars and Stripes,” set to the classic John Philip Sousa marches “Liberty Bell” and “El Capitan.”
Balanchine, a Russian dancer who moved to the United States in 1933, was a co-founder of the New York City Ballet and its artistic director for a generation. He also worked extensively in Hollywood and on Broadway; his choreography often combined classical and popular styles.
Also familiar will be a selection from contemporary British choreographer Christopher Wheeldon’s 2005 ballet to George Gershwin’s 1928 “An American in Paris.” Another piece, from Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Elite Syncopations,” is danced to the “Alaskan Rag” by Joseph Lamb.
Other pieces on the program are a nod to the power of spending time in the natural world.
A solo piece for a female dancer, “The Dragonfly,” was created by Russian ballerina Anna Pavlova in the early 20th century. Rusticators visiting Mount Desert Island in 1916 might well have been familiar with her work.
More modern is Sir Frederick Ashton’s 1972 “The Walk to Paradise Garden.”
The dance company’s stop in Bar Harbor comes after performances this month in New York City. Next, they head home to Sarasota to begin their 26th season at the Florida State University Center for the Performing Arts.
Audiences will have a chance to meet and talk with the dancers after both performances. Several local ballet schools plan to attend. Group rates are available.