Reverence and Reverie at the Sarasota Ballet



The Sarasota Ballet opens its 2018 Spring season in stunning style tonight at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall with Dreams of Nature, a program featuring Shakespearean spectacle, an American premiere of a modern classic and a star-studded company both on and off the stage that belies the quiet power of this premier Sarasota cultural institution.

The night begins at 7:30pm with The Dream, Sir Frederick Ashton’s celebrated interpretation of Shakespeare’s A Midsummer Night's Dream. A breathtaking production in its own right, with sumptuous costuming and magnificent sets, Sarasota Ballet brings this weekend’s performances to another level with special appearances and contributions from historic international guests. To tackle the mighty role of Oberon, Sir Anthony Dowell, often hailed as one of Britain’s greatest male dancers and the performer upon which the role was choreographed, has been in town and working with the company. This means guiding not only Sarasota Ballet principal dancer Ricardo Rhodes in the role, but also guest dancer Friedemann Vogel, principal dancer of the Stuttgarter Ballett in Germany, and visiting Sarasota for the production. In addition, Christopher Carr, repetiteur for the Royal Ballet, where The Dream debuted in 1964 on the 400th anniversary of Shakespeare’s birth, has leant his expertise as well.

No strangers to the production, Sarasota Ballet Director Iain Webb danced the part of Oberon with Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet, where Assistant Director Margaret Barbieri performed the role of Titania. An outsider may think that would be enough to stage their own version of The Dream, without such esteemed guests, but it is key to Webb’s philosophy that ballet be performed with a rigor and dedication to the original choreography, respecting even the most minute decisions made by the creating artists. And this dedication has paid off, and continues to pay off, in an international reputation that allows for an ever-increasing repertoire here in Sarasota.

“They recognize that we ensure all the ballets are done as originally intended,” says Webb of the choreographers, trusts and foundations who own the ballets and must give permission for companies to perform them. That the Sarasota Ballet works with the likes of Dowell, former director of the Royal Ballet, and David Bintley, director of Birmingham Royal Ballet, and brings them to Sarasota “is a testament to the way our Company honors this incredible art form,” he says. And as the repertoire builds, so does the list of honored guests.

The night concludes with the American premiere of Bintley’s ‘Still Life’ at the Penguin Café. Elaborately costumed and socially conscious (and still relevant on this 30th anniversary of its debut), the ballet follows an inspired collection of endangered animals as they attempt to weather a storm at the Penguin Café.

Dreams of Nature begins its three-performance run tonight at 7:30pm at the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall, followed by two performances on Saturday, at 2pm and 7:30pm. All performances are accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra.

Pictured: Ricardo Rhodes and Ivan Duarte in Sir Frederick Ashton's "The Dream." Photo by Frank Atura.

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