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Sarasota Ballet names principal dancer

Jennifer Hackbarth, a Dresden Semperoper Ballet veteran, replaces Danielle Brown, who retired.

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The Sarasota Ballet named Jennifer Hackbarth as its new principal dancer starting with the 2023-24 season, which begins Oct. 20 at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts.

A veteran of the Dresden Semperoper Ballet in Germany, Hackbarth replaces Danielle Brown, who retired at the end of 2022-23 season after 15 years with the company. Brown made her professional exit on April 30 at The Sarasota Ballet Royal Gala in Gemma Bond’s “The Last Solo."

"We are delighted that Jennifer Hackbarth is joining the company as a new principal dancer," said Iain Webb, director of The Sarasota Ballet, in a statement.

"I was impressed by her overall background and most specifically her experience dancing in classical ballets, such as works by George Balanchine. Her versatility, technicality and her ability to grasp different styles of choreography will further enhance our depth of dancing talent and continue to provide excitement and beauty to our audiences," he continued.

In 2017, Hackbarth became a demi soloist for the Dresden Semperoper Ballet, where she danced roles by some of the leading choreographers of modern and classical ballet.

Prior to that, she was an apprentice at the New York City Ballet. Hackbarth trained at the School of American Ballet, John Cranko Schule and the Milwaukee Ballet School and Academy, all of which she attended on full merit scholarships.

Her professional credits include lead roles in Aaron S. Watkin's "Swan Lake," "The Nutcracker," "The Sleeping Beauty" and "La Bayadere," Balanchine's "Four Temperaments," "The Nutcracker," and "Tchaikovsky Pas de Deux" and David Dawson's "Romeo and Juliet" and "Giselle."

Speaking of Hackbarth, Margaret Barbieri, assistant director of The Sarasota Ballet, said in a statement: "In watching her perform, her love of the artform was evident, as was her sheer enjoyment of dancing even in the classroom. She has a very strong technique and a beautiful dance quality."

In the summer of 2024, The Sarasota Ballet will perform at The Royal Opera House in London, at the invitation of Kevin O'Hare, director of the Royal Ballet. 

Under Webb's leadership, The Sarasota Ballet has appeared at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C., at City Center and the Joyce Theater in New York City and at Jacob's Pillow Dance Festival in the Berkshires of Massachusetts.

The company's extensive repertoire includes the work of such choreographers as Sir Frederick Ashton, which has had a huge influence on the company, as well as Balanchine, Sir David Bintley, Sir Matthew Bourne, Paul Taylor and Twyla Tharp, to name a few. 

During its 2023-24 season, The Sarasota Ballet will perform seven programs, including a new ballet by Jessica Lang, Edwaard Liang’s "The Art of War" and a world premiere by Bond. 

Resident Choreographer Ricardo Graziano returns with a world premiere, which will be his 11th one-act ballet for the company. 

Balanchine is showcased through "Emeralds" from his masterwork "Jewels" as well as "Theme and Variations" and "Who Cares?"

Also on the company's schedule are Johan Kobborg's "Salute," Sir Kenneth MacMillan's "Las Hermanas," Taylor's "Company B," Tharp's "In the Upper Room" and Christopher Wheeldon's "The American."

Ashton's continuing influence on The Sarasota Ballet will be reflected during the upcoming season with performances of his ballets "Varii Capricci," "Dante Sonata" and "Sinfonietta."



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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