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Sarasota Ballet announces 25th anniversary season

The silver anniversary season includes performance at Jacob's Pillow, retrospectives, premieres and plenty of Sir Frederick Ashton.

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  • | 5:00 p.m. April 15, 2015
Iain Webb has led the Sarasota Ballet into its 25th season with a renewed sense of artistic quality and international respect and prominence
Iain Webb has led the Sarasota Ballet into its 25th season with a renewed sense of artistic quality and international respect and prominence
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Though its critical and popular success makes it seem like it has been around for a considerable time, the Sarasota Ballet has only been around for 25 years. The ballet will celebrate its silver anniversary in artistic style and panache with a 2015-2016 season that will honor its past as well as offer some of the best compositions and productions contemporary ballet has to offer.

Before the 25th season formally opens in Sarasota, the Sarasota Ballet will have their company debut at the United States’ premiere dance festival: Jacob’s Pillow. The annual dance summit brings the best companies from around the world to display their dancing prowess and artistry in the tranquil woods of Beckett, Mass. The Sarasota Ballet will perform from August 12 through 16 and present Christopher Wheeldon’s “The American,” Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Monotones I & II” and a world premiere work by resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano.

Though the company has yet to finalize the contracts on a few of the performances for next season, Iain Webb, Margaret Barbieri and the company and staff at Sarasota Ballet have a sizable season for Sarasota’s dance and arts community. Below are the confirmed pieces and performance dates for the 25th anniversary season.

‘Best of Theatre of Dreams’
When: Oct. 23 to 25; five performances
Where: FSU Center for the Performing Arts

The opening gusto of the 2015-2016 season will be a tribute to the ballet’s last 25 years. The centerpiece is a tribute to Pavel Fomin, the company’s long-serving ballet master. The company will perform Fomin’s 1997 ballet “Hommage a Chopin,” which was reprised in 2006. The program will also include reprisals from principals Kate Honea, Logan Learned, character principal Ricki Bertoni and soloist Alex Harrison.

‘MacMillan, Wright & Ashton’
When: Nov. 20 and 21; three performances
Where: Sarasota Opera House

The ballet’s second program is bursting with company and American premieres. The first is Sir Kenneth MacMillan’s “Concerto,” a company premiere. Written in 1966 when MacMillan became ballet director at the Berlin Opera House, the plotless piece incorporates Dmitri Shostakovich’s “Piano Concerto No. 2.” A formally ambitious piece, the three movements each have a different pair of soloists along with three subsidiary couples and a corps of sixteen female dancers.

The second piece is the company and American premiere of Sir Peter Wright’s “Summertide.” The piece premiered at Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet in Oct. 1976.  Performed to Felix Mendelssohn’s “Piano concerto no. 2,” the Sarasota Ballet production will recreate sets and costumes from Elizabeth Dalton’s original designs that will transport the audiences inside the Sarasota Opera House to the opening night of Wright’s ballet so many years ago.

Closing the second program is the company premiere of the company favorite Sir Frederick Ashton’s “Marguerite & Armand.” The piece is set to Franz Liszt’s “B minor piano sonata” and is a tribute to Rudolf Nureyev and Dame Margot Fonteyn. The story is based on the novel “La Dame aux Camélias” by Alexandre Dumas.

‘John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker’
When: Dec. 18 and 19; three performances
Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

For the 2015 holiday season, the Sarasota Ballet will bring the iconic “Nutcracker” with a little Sarasota/circus twist. Matthew Hart’s “John Ringling’s Circus Nutcracker” uses Pyotr Ilyich Tchaikovsky iconic score but inserts John and Mable Ringling's history and personal ties to Sarasota and the circus with the traditional fable by E. T. A. Hoffman. 

‘Balanchine & Graziano’
When: Jan. 29 through Feb. 1; six performances
Where: FSU Center for the Performing Arts

The ballet’s spring session opens with a Balanchine classic, resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano’s original work created for Jacob’s Pillow earlier in the year, and another as yet to be named piece. “Emeralds” by George Balanchine is the influential ballet director’s ode to France. With a score by Gabriel Fauré and designs by Barbara Karinska, Balanchine said that “Emeralds” was, “an evocation of France – the France of elegance, comfort, dress and perfume.” 

‘We Present … ’
When: Feb. 26 through 28; five performances
Where: FSU Center for the Performing Arts

Due to the success of last season’s visiting performances by the Dance Theatre of Harlem, the Sarasota Ballet has again decided to share their home with a nationally recognized ballet company. The performance contract is still in deliberations and the prestigious visiting company will be announced at a later date.

Character principal Ricki Bertoni in Michel Fokine's
Character principal Ricki Bertoni in Michel Fokine's "Petrushka," which is closing the ballet's current season.

25th Anniversary Celebration Gala
When: Feb. 29
Where: FSU Center for the Performing Arts

This one night engagement will include a dinner along with a performance showcasing some of the ballet’s most important works from their quarter-century history.

When: April 8 and 9; three performances
Where: Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

The penultimate series in the 2015-2016 season will include George Balanchine’s “Stars and Stripes.” The 1958 piece is a company premiere set to the music of America’s marching master John Philip Sousa. The patriotic piece evokes 4th of July fireworks and includes intricate baton twirling, marching and ballerinas armed with rifles. In addition, two as of yet named pieces will join Balanchine's spirited ballet.

When: April 29 and 30; three performances
Where: Sarasota Opera House

It wouldn’t be right if the Sarasota Ballet’s muse and patron saint of dancing, Sir Frederick Ashton, didn’t close out the 25th anniversary season. It has been Webb and the company’s passionate and dedicated revival and presentation of the late influential British choreographer that has put the relatively young company in the national and international dancing spotlight. Ashton’s “Jazz Calendar” entered the company’s repertoire in February of this year. With a jazz score composed by Sir Richard Rodney Bennett, the ballet is based on the English nursery rhyme “Monday’s Child.”

The Ashton spotlight will include the company premiere of “A Wedding Bouquet.” Created in 1937, this avant-garde piece has a disjointed narrative originally spoken by Gertrude Stein and set to a series of scenes at a French wedding around the turn of the century where nothing seems to be going according to plan.

Along with “Jazz Calendar” and “A Wedding Bouquet,” the Sarasota Ballet will close its season with a yet-to-be-named piece.


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