Iain Webb isn’t letting dancer turnover and a poor economy halt Sarasota Ballet’s momentum. Webb, the company’s artistic director, is following up last year’s high-profile buzz with another blockbuster season, ripe with collaborations, A-list choreographers, calculated risks and comfortable classics.
“I think,” says Webb, “that this young company is really going to step up and make a statement. I think audiences will just fall in love.”
Worried that he might have to scale back programming this year, Webb took a three-week vacation this summer to London, caught up with old friends and bounced ideas off colleagues. He told them he was afraid the economy would stifle Sarasota Ballet at a vital point in its growth — its third season under new tutelage.
“I was frustrated because I thought we’d have to take it down a notch,” says Webb, a native of Yorkshire, England. “Suddenly, everyone was saying, ‘What are you talking about? You’re doing stuff in Sarasota that we want to see in England.’”
Impressed with Sarasota Ballet’s success, in particular its reputation for performing revered British ballets, choreographers quickly rallied behind Webb and his wife, Margaret Barbieri — including Matthew Bourne and Christopher Wheeldon, two of England’s most sought-after choreographers.
“The dancers have come back fully recharged with all these wonderful ballets before them,” Webb says. “I couldn’t have dreamt for a better, more exciting season.”
Here’s a quick look at what Webb and company have in store from October through April.
• Oct. 23 to Nov. 22: “Contact,” a dance-musical collaboration with the Asolo Repertory Theatre. Created by director/choreographer Susan Stroman and John Weidman, “Contact” won a Tony Award in 2000 for Best Musical. The production will consist of seven Sarasota Ballet dancers, two Asolo actors and several Broadway dancers.
“It’s going to be a tremendous start,” Webb says. “I always like to start the season with guns blaring.”
• Nov. 27 to Nov. 29: Peter Wright’s classic production of “Giselle” will kick off the ballet’s run at the Sarasota Opera House. Staged by Margaret Barbieri, who famously danced in more “Giselles” than anyone in the world, the show will include performances by Royal Ballet dancers and set and costume designs by Peter Farmer.
• Dec. 4 to Dec. 5: Robert de Warren’s “The Nutcracker” will return to the Sarasota Opera House and involve all the children from the Sarasota Ballet School and Dance — The Next Generation.
“There were some mixed messages last year when we didn’t do ‘The Nutcracker,’” Webb says. “It’s a tradition, and I think we’ll always do it every couple years.”
• Jan. 29 to Jan. 31: The year opens with a triple-bill program — Frederick Ashton’s, “Rendezvous;” Scottish choreographer Peter Darrell’s “Othello;” and Matthew Bourne’s “Boutique,” a modern incarnation of Massine’s “La Boutique Fantasque,” a vivid ballet inspired by the iconic 1960s fashion of London’s Carnaby Street.
• Feb. 19 to Feb. 21: French choreographer Andre Prokovsky’s work returns to Sarasota with the energetic “Vespri.” Also on the ticket: Anna Pavlova’s “The Dragonfly,” and “I Napoletani,” a brand-new number by Dominic Walsh, whose dance company joined the Sarasota Ballet last season on Walsh’s haunting “The Trilogy: Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.”
• April 2 to April 3: According to Webb, the company is ecstatic about the recent addition of Christopher Wheeldon’s “There Where She Loved,” which calls for two opera singers and a pianist, followed by Renato Paroni’s “Rococo Variations” and last year’s popular nautical folly, “Pineapple Poll.”
Says Webb: “The dancers can’t believe we’re doing Wheeldon. When they got the news, they were almost jumping down the corridor with excitement.”
• April 23 to April 25: The company will end its season with Balanchine’s “Donizetti Variations,” followed by the world premiere of a new ballet choreographed by principal dancers Kate Honea and Octavio Martin and Bourne’s 1989 witty spoof, “The Infernal Galop.”
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- Go Ian Webb, Take risks, review the classics create a buzz, Do your artistic job and enhance our lives with all the beauty the dancers, and everone in front and behind the scenes can give us. We live in paradise and want it all
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