Sarasota Ballet plans two world premieres in 2021-22 season

Jay Handelman
Sarasota Herald-Tribune
Sarasota Ballet principal dancer Danielle Brown appears on the stage of the Mertz Theatre in the FSU Center for the Performing Arts. The Sarasota Ballet plans a regular schedule of seven programs in the 2021-22 season, including two world premieres.

After a 30th anniversary season of digital programs performed without a live audience, The Sarasota Ballet will return to a regular schedule of indoor productions including two world premieres for 2021-22.

While arts organizations around the country closed their doors during the pandemic, The Sarasota Ballet was among many local arts groups that survived while continuing to pay staff and artists despite a drastic drop in box office income.

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“We feel strong and we’re going to do a full season of in-person performances,” Artistic Director Iain Webb said. “If there’s a roadblock, we’ll just have to maneuver around it.” He said it is too early to know what COVID safety protocols still may be required when the season starts.

“Will we have to do as much social distancing or masking? We don’t have the answer. We feel it’s going to start slowly. From a box office point of view, we’re looking at budgeting around 50 percent of our usual revenue,” he said.

Webb and other local arts leaders are aware that while many patrons are excited about returning to “normal,” they may not yet feel ready to attend indoor performances at full capacity, at least at the start of the season.

The Sarasota Ballet will try to entice audiences back with some past favorites and the premieres of new works by David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet, and resident choreographer Ricardo Graziano.

David Bintley, artistic director of the Birmingham Royal Ballet in England, will create a new dance version of “A Comedy of Errors” for The Sarasota Ballet.

A company premiere by Bintley was originally scheduled for the final program of the current season. Instead, Webb said the choreographer will create a dance version of Shakespeare’s “A Comedy of Errors” (March 25-26) set to an original score by composer Matthew Hindson and sets and costumes by Dick Bird. In 2008, The Sarasota Ballet presented Bintley’s “Four Scottish Dances,” and in 2018 it offered the company premiere of his “Still Life at the Penguin Cafe.”

Webb said he is most excited about supporting the creation of a full-length piece. While it is a gamble for the company, “you’ve got to have the trust, and I would trust with David with everything you have.”

Ricardo Graziano, photographed with Ryoko Sadoshima, is a principal dancer and resident choreographer for The Sarasota Ballet. He will create a new piece to premiere in the fall.

No details are available about what Graziano will create for the company.

“I only just told Ricardo about it,” Webb said in an interview a few days before he announced the season at the company’s annual gala Sunday night. “The only instructions he got was I’ll tell him which dancers he can use and who he can’t.”

Graziano’s piece, his first new work since the January 2019 premiere of “Amorosa,” will be paired in the season-opening program, Oct. 22-24, with Martha Graham’s “Appalachian Spring,” set to the music of Aaron Copland. 

The season continues Nov. 19-20 with Peter Wright’s “Summertide,” first performed by the company in 2015, and Twyla Tharp’s “Nine Sinatra Songs,” set to music by the legendary singer.

Wright’s work also is featured in Program 3 (Dec. 17-18) with a performance of the full-length “Giselle,” which Webb said will mark the choreographer’s 95th birthday. Wright created the piece for the Stuttgart Ballet in 1966 with Margaret Barbieri, Webb’s wife and the company’s associate artistic director, in the title role.

Iain Webb, right, is the director of The Sarasota Ballet, and his wife, Margaret Barbieri is the Assistant Director.

Program 4 (Jan. 28-31) will feature Frederick Ashton’s “Valses nobles et sentimentales” (which is featured in the company’s all-Ashton digital program next weekend), Dame Ninette de Valois’ “The Rake’s Progress” and Johan Kobborg’s Act III of “Napoli,” inspired by the original by August Bournonville.

The Mark Morris Dance Group will be presented by The Sarasota Ballet for the first time March 4-7, and the choreographer’s “The Letter V” will be featured in the season’s final program (April 29-30) , along with George Balanchine’s “Serenade” and Kenneth MacMillan’s “Elite Syncopations.” It will be the first time the company has worked with Morris on one of his creations.

Season subscriptions will be available beginning April 29, and four-ballet packages will be available starting June 10. Single tickets, starting at $30, go on sale Aug. 5. 

Webb said the company will monitor ticket sales and coronavirus infection rates to determine if attendance must be limited in the three venues where it performs –  the Mertz Theatre at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts, the Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall and the Sarasota Opera House.

For more information: 941-359-0099; sarasotaballet.org

Jay Handelman, arts editor and theater critic, has been an editor and writer at the Sarasota Herald-Tribune since 1984. Read more of his arts and entertainment stories. And please support local journalism by subscribing to the Herald-Tribune.