There's only a month to go until the Sarasota Ballet opens its 2013-2014 season and rehearsals are in high gear, but the top artistic staff has left town.
Director Iain Webb and Assistant Margaret Barbieri are in London this week, participating in the Ashton Symposium at their old stomping grounds, The Royal Ballet School at Covent Garden. They will give a talk sharing their expertise in staging the ballets of British choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton (1909-1988), with whom they both worked while dancers with the Royal.
"Iain and I feel privileged and honored to be invited to take part," Barbieri said before leaving Sarasota. "It goes without saying that the Ashton ballets, and Sir Fred himself, are very special to us both. We are most fortunate to have danced so many of his ballets and to have been coached by him and it is a joy to bring his works to our dancers and to the Sarasota audiences."
Webb and Barbieri have introduced nine Ashton ballets to the Sarasota Ballet repertoire since arriving in 2007. The local company has earned a reputation as the "foremost exponent" of Ashton's works in America (Alistair Macauley, New York Times dance critic) and received national accolades in presenting Ashton's "Les Patineurs" at the Ballet Across America showcase of regional companies at the Kennedy Center in Washington, D.C. last June.
This year brings several new Ashton ballets into the repertoire and the season will conclude with a four-day Ashton festival in May featuring 11 of the choreographer's works which is intended to draw international visitors.
Twenty-three ballet experts will speak at the London symposium, on topics from "What Makes an Ashton Work and Ashton Work" to "Securing Ashton's Legacy for the Future." The symposium is hosted by The Frederick Ashton Foundation, the organization created to preserve and license Ashton's ballets.