Sarasota Ballet offer program of Balanchine and Ashton

The program also includes an Ashton ballet and music by Britten

mclear@bradenton.comNovember 21, 2013 

Richard Graziano, Ellen Overstreet and Amy Wood in Sir Frederick Ashton's "Illiminations." PHOTO PROVIDED

Iain Webb is more enthused about this weekend's program than he's been about just about any other in his six-plus years as director of the Sarasota Ballet.

"If you look at where this company was six and a half years ago, when I took over, we're not the same company," he said. "If you look at this company three years ago, we're not the same company."

The company's triumphant visit to Washington, D.C., for the Kennedy Center's "Dance Across America" program in June gave the company a huge boost, Webb said. The New York Times noted the Sarasota Ballet's performance as a highlight of the program, which attracts companies from all over the country.

The Sarasota Ballet in enjoying an artistic peak - "one of many peaks to come, I would hope," its director said - and so this is the perfect time to present works by perhaps the two greatest choreographers of the 20th century, George Balanchine and Sir Frederick Ashton.

The program of three works sandwiches Ashton's "Illuminations" between two Balanchine pieces, "Serenade" and ""Who Cares?"

"One interesting thing is that the middle piece was the first work that Sir Frederick Ashton did for the New York City Ballet," Webb said. "That was Balanchine's company, and in return Balanchine went to England."

The music for the evening's performance, provided by the Sarasota Orchestra, includes works by Tchaikovsky, Gershwin and Britten.

"All over the world people are celebrating what would have been the 100th birthday of Benjamin Britten," Webb said. "And I think for the Sarasota Ballet and the Sarasota Orchestra to be part of that is really exciting."

(The Sarasota Opera also recently noted Britten centennial with a production of "The Little Sweep.")

Besides just the quality of the work on the program, Webb said, it's designed to appeal to all tastes.

"There's something for everybody," he said. "For the husbands who just want to get in good with their wives, in the first piece the stage is full of gorgeous women. For people who are more interested in the music, you've got Britten, and then we send you out into the weekend with music by Gershwin. It's very high-energy very American.

"This combination, this triple bill, is one of the most exciting we've ever had."

Details: Nov. 22-23, Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Show times: 8 p.m. Friday, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday. Tickets: $33.25-$100. Information: 941-359.0099, ext.101, www.sarasotaballet.org

Marty Clear, features writer/columnist, can be reached at 941-708-7919. Follow twitter.com/martinclear.

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