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Performing Art
Arts and Entertainment Friday, Jul. 31, 2015 4 years ago

Sarasota Ballet adds Sir Frederick Ashton's "Enigma Variations" to 25th anniversary season

Sarasota Ballet will be the first American company to perform and add both Ashton's "Enigma Variations" and "Marguerite and Armand" to its repertoire.
by: Nick Reichert Arts & Entertainment Editor

Even before the Sarasota Ballet announced the programming for their 25th anniversary season in April, it would have been quite a shock if there weren't a large presence by famed British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton. Since the summer of 2007, when Iain Webb took over the director position of the Sarasota Ballet, the quarter-century old company's fate has been intrinsically and creatively connected to the influential British dancer and choreographer.

The Sarasota Ballet has earned an international reputation for its revival of and pristine productions of both classic and obscure Ashton works. Recently the company hosted a Sir Frederick Ashton Festival in May 2014, performed his enchanting winter piece "Les Patineurs" at the Fall for Dance Festival at New York City Center last October, and the company is currently preparing for its premiere at the longest running dance festival in America, Jacob's Pillow, where they'll perform Ashton's "Monotones I and II." 

Once the Sarasota Ballet returns from Becket, Massachusetts, they will start rehearsing for their substantial 25th anniversary season. Both celebratory and adventurous, the ballet announced that three Ashton pieces, "Enigma Variations," "Marguerite and Armand" and "The Wedding Bouquet," will be included in this upcoming season as well as added to its repertoire, which has 21 Ashton pieces in total. The Sarasota Ballet will be the first company in America to perform "Enigma Variations" and "Marguerite and Armand."

"We are honored to bring two of Sir Fred’s greatest ballets to the community who’s grown to love and cherish his works,” says Webb in a prepared statement.  “Our dancers are very lucky to get opportunities other American companies have yet to experience.”

Iain Webb, director of the Sarasota Ballet, is an advocate for and constantly reviving pieces of Ashton's oeuvre. He has added 21 Ashton works to the ballet's repertoire.

"Enigma Variations" (running April 8 and 9) is a ballet with 16 variations displaying the life of British composer Edward Elgar and the various relationships he maintained in his life. The ballet premiered in 1968 after Ashton collaborated with an unknown student at the Royal College of Art who was examining costume and set designs for the potential ballet whose music was first composed by Elgar almost 70 years prior. Webb began reviving the piece after considerable interest was presented during a film presentation of a 1970s Royal Ballet production during last summer's Ashton festival.

“It’s been a ballet I’ve had my eyes on for years,” says Webb.  “I like to stay true to what Sir Fred would’ve wanted and I feel he would be very pleased to see our company perform this demanding ballet this season.”

On November 20 and 21, concluding a program that includes Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Concerto" and Sir Peter Wright's "Summertime" will be Ashton's "Marguerite and Armand." Based on Alexandre Dumas, fils' story "The Lady of the Camellias," Ashton created this piece in 1963 specifically for the renowned dancers Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev. 

“Seeing Margot and Rudy perform 'Marguerite and Armand' was truly a moving and thrilling experience for me and their performances are firmly imprinted into my memory,” says Margaret Barbieri, assistant director of the Sarasota Ballet. “We are incredibly fortunate to have this sublime ballet in our repertoire for our dancers to perform and our audiences to be spellbound by.”

Ticket sales for the Sarasota Ballet's 25th anniversary season begin on August 3 at


Nick Reichert writes about Sarasota fine arts, including theater, dance, opera, music and visual art. He graduated from Wake Forest University in 2013. Follow @TheNickReichert on Twitter for regular updates.

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