Many of the best young dancers in the world are gathering in Sarasota for the third annual Carreno Dance Festival, which gets underway July 29.
The dancers could be called amateurs, but festival founder and president Robert de Warren prefers to call them "pre-professional."
"The talent of these young dancers is astounding," said de Warren, the former artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet. "We want to give them the training so they can immediately become soloists with some of the best companies in the world, not spend seven or years in the corps de ballet, because ballet is such a short career."
This year's student body includes some 300 students from 30 countries and most of the 50 states.
The teachers for the festival are among the best professionals in the world, including artistic director and festival namesake Jose Carreno, a star of the ballet world who recently became artistic director of Opera San Jose in California.
Starting this weekend, ballet aficionados can observe some of the master classes, and get a chance to watch some of the biggest ballet celebrities of today and yesterday train some of the dancers who could become the world's biggest ballet stars in years to come.
For spectators, though, the biggest event of the festival is still a few weeks way. The Festival of Stars, which features all the pre-professional dancers in a staging of "Sleeping Beauty," plus a pas de deux with Carreno and Julie Kent of American Ballet Theatre, among other works, is slated for 5 p.m. Aug. 17 at the Sarasota Opera House.
Details: Various times July 29-Aug 17, the Sarasota Opera House, 61 Pineapple Ave., Sarasota, and the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School, 501 N. Beneva Road, Sarasota. Tickets: $25 for observer passes to all open master classes. Information: 941-822-0198.