Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Showing off Ballet's Future Bank of Talent

Newspaper article Sarasota Herald Tribune

Showing off Ballet's Future Bank of Talent

Article excerpt

From the moment Artistic Director Iain Webb joined the Sarasota Ballet six years ago, part of his agenda was to bolster and improve the educational arm of the company in an effort to create a breeding ground for future dancers.

A giant step toward that goal took place last August with the creation of the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory of Dance -- named for Webb's wife, a former principal with the Sadlers Wells Royal Ballet and the company's assistant artistic director -- an eight-year training program for ballet students with serious professional aspirations.

Judging by a first comprehensive public showing Monday night by the conservatory's 14 current students, Webb is well on his way to creating generations of home-grown talent that will serve the company well for years to come. The dancers, who range in age from 12 to 18, were joined by the company's nine trainees, who are part of a separate two-year program that allows them to train, rehearse and sometimes perform with members of the main company.

In a well-balanced program of traditional classical variations and contemporary works choreographed by staff, company dancers and the trainees themselves, the students evidenced the results of detailed and disciplined technical training, as well as an effort toward fostering individual artistic expression.

There were too many commendable performances to note here, but among the up-and-coming talents were Olivia Ratner, partnered by Eddie Duffy in a tiny tots version of the pas de deux from "Satanella"; Ashlynn Rutherford, leading a quartet of young toreros in the Mercedes role from "Don Quixote"; and Allison Forsythe, Nikki Jennings, Rachel Silverman and Caitlin Gish, partnered by trainees Yamil Maldonado and Isaac Jones and company dancers Sam O'Brien and David Hochberg, in an intriguing contemporary premiere by Riccardo Graziano called "Feira de Castro. …

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