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London calling The Sarasota Ballet

The company will take its first-ever international tour at the invitation of The Royal Ballet.

The Sarasota Ballet will perform at The Royal Opera House.
The Sarasota Ballet will perform at The Royal Opera House.
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The Sarasota Ballet will travel to London for its first-ever international tour in June 2024, at the invitation of Kevin O'Hare, director of The Royal Ballet.

The Sarasota company will perform seven times from June 4-9, 2024, presenting two programs and a gala performance honoring the works of choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton.

The London tour, which will consist of a one-week residency in the Linbury Theatre in The Royal Opera House, will be a homecoming of sorts for Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb and Assistant Director Margaret Barbieri. 

"Iain and Maggie's remarkable careers on stage with The Royal Ballet have been a huge influence on the company and have catapulted The Sarasota Ballet's transformation into the internationally recognized company it is today," Sarasota Ballet Executive Director Joseph Volpe said in a statement. "This invitation by The Royal Ballet is a huge milestone in the history of our company." 

Webb and Barbieri danced for many years with The Royal Ballet and with the Sadler's Wells Royal Ballet, the forerunner to today's Birmingham Royal Ballet. During their tenure, Barbieri was a principal and Webb was a first soloist, and the couple danced in numerous performances around the world.

During their tenure at The Royal Ballet, the works of Sir Frederick Ashton made a lasting impression on Webb and Barbieri and have informed their work at The Sarasota Ballet, according to Webb.

"Honoring the works of Sir Fred has been an inspiration to us and performing his ballets has cemented the company's place in the world of ballet," he says. "Margaret and I have talked for a few years about holding another Ashton Festival like we did in 2014. While in conversation with Kevin to discuss upcoming projects, I mentioned this idea. From there, it evolved into this truly marvelous invitation and partnership."

The Ashton Festival during The Sarasota Ballet's 2013-14 season marked the 25th anniversary of Ashton's death.

The Sarasota Ballet's 2024 London performances will feature several rare Ashton ballets and will mark the beginning of a five-year worldwide program called "Ashton Celebrated" organized by the Frederick Ashton Foundation.

Both the Sarasota Ballet and The Royal Ballet will dance in Ashton programs during June 2024 in The Royal Opera House. Dancers from The Royal Ballet will perform during The Sarasota Ballet's June 7 gala evening, which will include "Valses nobles et sentimentales," "Varii Capricci" and "Facade."

"We very much look forward to welcoming Iain, Margaret and the dancers of The Sarasota Ballet to The Royal Opera House for this very special shared celebration of Ashton across both our stages," said Royal Ballet Director O'Hare in a statement.

Program 1 by The Sarasota Ballet will be performed on June 4, 5, 6 and 9, and will include "Valses nobles et sentimentales," "Dante Sonata" and Sinfonietta." Program 2, which will be presented during two performances on June 8, consists of "Valses nobles et sentimentales," "Ashton Divertissements" and "Facade." 

"Not only will our company be able to perform on such a prestigious stage, but to be instrumental in returning these works to their spiritual home, after so many years, will be so incredibly special for Iain and I, the dancers and for the audience," said Barbieri.

Sir Frederick Ashton was born in 1904 in Guayaquil, Ecuador, the son of an international business executive who was also vice-consul at the British Consulate. Ashton pursued a career in dance despite the opposition of his family under the tutelage of Léonide Massine and later Marie Rambert.

Ashton ultimately became a leading British ballet dancer and choreographer and also worked in opera and film. He is credited with creating an English genre of ballet. Ashton was chief choreographer from 1935-63 at the company known successively as the Vic-Wells Ballet, the Sadler's Wells Ballet and The Royal Ballet. He retired as director of the company in 1970.



Monica Roman Gagnier

Monica Roman Gagnier is the arts and entertainment editor of the Observer. Previously, she covered A&E in Santa Fe, New Mexico, for the Albuquerque Journal and film for industry trade publications Variety and The Hollywood Reporter.

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