Monday, April 21, 2008

Sarasota Ballet: Not just men in tights

So I'm not sure how many ballet buffs there truly are in Bradenton.

Sure, people around here like to dance. I've met contemporary dance teachers and musical theater choreographers. I've heard about people who are keen on grovin' to country music, read about ballroom dance enthusiasts and seen those who like to watch any live and/or televised reality dance shows with the stars.

But when it comes to ballet ... well, it seems more people flock to it only when it involves anything to do with "The Nutcracker." And possibly "Swan Lake."

Sugar plum fairies anyone?

But this season, the Sarasota Ballet has been offering ballets that are just as sweet — sometimes even sweeter — than our dear "Nutcracker."

It seems Iain Webb, artistic director of the Sarasota Ballet, is trying to change people's perspective on the "ballet" — from that of men in tights carrying girls in classic pink tutus through the air to that of an evolving, thought-provoking art form that can be modern, edgy and more enticing.

Last week, I had the opportunity to interview the not-so-new artistic director (he's been with the ballet company for a year now) for a story that will run in the Herald's Weekend section on Thursday. He's got a lot of interesting things planned (SPOILER ALERT) that doesn't include "The Nutcracker." But don't worry, in its place will be a delightful dance that still has snow, he said. And ice skating.

So now I'm at the part of this blog where I could go on many different tangents. I could tell you the interesting stories he shared, but I think I'll save that for fodder for next season. Or I could tell you all he has planned for next year — things he hopes will draw a new kind of ballet crowd — but you can read that in Thursday's story.

One of the things I will share though is that Webb isn't shy about straying away from the status quo of the ballets people have become accustomed to around here.

He called it taking a gamble — not just with the ability of the dancers to perform these rarely seen progressive works, but with area audiences ability to digest something fresh and different. As Sarasota audiences seem to love Webb's approach, I wonder if the ballet company's rapid new appeal is felt in Bradenton. — January Holmes

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