Lauren Strongin, Sarasota Ballet’s prima ballerina for the past five years, announced her resignation this week from the company to accept a position with Houston Ballet. She begins her corps de ballet position July 21 under the direction of Houston Ballet Artistic Director Stanton Welch.
Strongin’s departure from the company follows the retirement of fellow principal dancers Kyoko Takeichi, Saneyuki Kawashima and the departure of Sergiy Mykhaylov, meaning a loss of four of five principal dancers for Sarasota Ballet.
“The only reason I am able to take this next step is because of everything I’ve been given here,” Strongin, 25, told The Longboat Observer, “from Robert de Warren (retired artistic director) making me a principal dancer and Iain Webb (current artistic director) bringing in all the different choreographers.”
Said Webb: “While I’m happy for Lauren — to see her pursue her professional dreams, I must be honest:
We will miss her extraordinary grace and beauty at Sarasota Ballet. Lauren’s stage presence and dancing enabled us to reach new heights with the company over the past two years.
“We’ve accomplished a lot in these past two years,” Webb said, “and although I’m saddened by Lauren’s departure, I’m still confident Sarasota Ballet will continue to grow and mature as a premier company. We won’t let up.”
The loss of Strongin will leave another void in the ballet company. Her husband, Adrian Ciobanu, is one of the the company’s ballet masters. Ciobanu, 35, joined the company in 1996, after immigrating from Romania. He was a member of the corps de ballet, then became a teacher in the company’s school and at Dance — The Next Generation. He became the school’s principal in 2005 and assistant ballet master in 2008.
“Iain has always been really supportive of both our careers, pushing me to be the best dancer I could be and helping Adrian to be more than an instructor, to be a ballet master,” said Strongin, a native of Arizona.
“He (Webb) is open and willing to give people a chance.”
Although Strongin and Ciobanu are anxious to experience a larger ballet company and city, they said the move from Sarasota is bittersweet.
“We have great friends and supporters here,” Strongin says. “There’s something really special here. It’s like a family. You get to know everybody — the donors, the associates — and everyone is rooting for you and wants you to do well. They’re on your team and have seen you grow as a dancer. I will definitely miss that.”