The Sarasota Ballet’s Educational Programs Soar

October 16, 2013

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The Sarasota Ballet’s Educational Programs Soar

With the Sarasota Ballet continuing to expand their national and international reach, the Companies educational programs have seen tremendous growth.

Caitlin Gish, Margaret Barbieri and Rachel Silverman of The Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance  - photo by Frank Atura

Caitlin Gish, Margaret Barbieri and Rachel Silverman of The Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance – photo by Frank Atura

Since 2007, following the appointment of Iain Webb as Director for The Sarasota Ballet, the Company’s repertoire has expanded to include 88 new ballets; 26 world-premieres, 5 American premieres, 49 Sarasota premieres and 8 revivals. Webb’s unique repertoire – notable especially for the works choreographed by Sir Fredrick Ashton – has earned international acclaim, putting the once fledgling company on the radar for many aspiring dancers.

As the only professional company on Florida’s west coast to have an affiliated school, The Sarasota Ballet School has seen year-over-year growth since January of 2008 – when Webb took the 30 student school and tripled attendance by that May. This year alone, attendance is up almost 20 percent with 135 students enrolled – and that number is anticipated to grow to 160 by the end of December. The School’s summer intensives have also expanded from four to five weeks. As a result, well over 100 students are expected for the summer 2014 program, a 53 percent increase from the summer of 2012.

“The education of young dancers is an investment for us,” said Webb. “The School is not only rewarding but it helps us maintain a strong Company. That is also why we felt it necessary to create the Conservatory.”

The Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance, now in its second year, has doubled in size since opening its doors in 2012. With 11 returning students and 13 new students, the opportunity to attend the Conservatory has drawn dancers from around the world, including Canada, Panama, Japan and Hong Kong. Students and their families have also moved to the area from Alaska and Ohio and local cities like Naples and Ft. Myers.

The Company’s outreach program, Dance –The Next Generation (DNG), has also seen an influx. The one-of-a-kind program, which uses the discipline of dance to prevent at-risk students from dropping out of school, has seen attendance increase by 47 percent this year. With 150 students to accommodate, The Sarasota Ballet opened a new 6,000 square foot building located at 500 Tallevast Road in Sarasota.  The new space features three large dance studios along with multiple classrooms and administration offices. In addition, the University of South Florida recently agreed to give any child who graduates the 10 year program a four-year scholarship.

“The Sarasota Ballet could not have grown to this extent without our many supporters,” explained Webb. “DNG is our way of giving back to the community and it truly is a pleasure.”

Now looking at Webb’s seventh season as director, the 44-member Company has yet to slow down. The new season will again showcase new premieres, including The Sir Frederick Ashton Festival, a four-day celebration of the life and works of the renowned British choreographer.

“The sky’s the limit,” said Webb. “We’re making smart decisions, investing in our dancers and creating strong relationships with our community. I’m truly blessed to be working at such a great organization.”

About The Sarasota Ballet

Since 1990 The Sarasota Ballet, the Gulf Coast of Florida’s only professional ballet company, has been enriching lives, captivating emotions and strengthening the community through the art of dance. Under the leadership of Director Iain Webb, the Company’s expanded repertoire includes works by world-renowned choreographers such as Sir Frederick Ashton, Dame Ninette de Valois, Twyla Tharp, Antony Tudor, Sir Kenneth MacMillan, John Cranko, Hans van Manen, Andre Prokovsky, Dominic Walsh, Christopher Wheeldon and Matthew Bourne. Receiving national and international recognition for their diverse repertoire of rarely performed ballets, The Sarasota Ballet was recently noted by Sarah Kaufman, a dance critic for The Washington Post to be “…the jewel of this year’s ‘Ballet Across America,’” a 2013 showcase of the best ballet companies from across the nation at the Kennedy Center.   

About The Ashton Festival

The 2014 Ashton Festival is being staged by The Sarasota Ballet to honor the life and works of the Royal Ballet’s founding choreographer, Sir Frederick Ashton (1909-1988). As one of ballet’s most notable choreographers, Ashton has been a lead influence for The Sarasota Ballet’s repertoire since 2007, with the Company presenting more Ashton ballets each season than any other American Company. A dance and theatre critic for the New York Times, Alastair Macaulay, noted “…The Sarasota Ballet has suddenly become America’s foremost exponent of Ashton ballets.” Held in Sarasota, Florida, the four day celebration spans from April 30th to May 3rd, and will feature lectures, demonstrations and an eclectic array of 11 Ashton ballets performed by The Sarasota Ballet.

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