While some teens may use summers off from school to kick back and take it easy, that’s definitely not the case with the 95 students from around the world who’ve been participating in the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School’s aptly named Summer Intensive program.
These young people—some from as far away as Japan or Sweden, some from right here at home—have been spending the past month or so in rigorous full days of training in ballet, pointe, variations, pas de deux, dance conditioning, modern, character and the history of Cuban ballet, the highly specific, athletic style in which school co-founders Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez specialize.
This summer, they’ve been joined by an international faculty including Ramona de Sáa, the director of the Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet (and Serrano’s former teacher when he was growing up in Cuba); Roberto Machado, director of the Escuela Superior de Musica y Danza Monterrey; and Ana Julia Bermudez, master teacher at the Escuela Nacional Cubana de Ballet.
It all culminates on July 29 with a 2 p.m. showcase performance of ballet classics and exciting new works featuring the students; and with a 7 p.m. performance at the Sarasota Opera House that will feature young dancers as well as professionals who studied at SCBS and are now professionals with ballet companies elsewhere. Among the pros: Francois Llorente, former soloist of Ballet Nacional de Cuba; Kalle Sascha Wigle of the Royal Swedish Ballet; and Francisco Serrano (the founders’ son), who left Sarasota to join the Royal Ballet in London.
The tie between the Sarasota school and Cuba is a close one. Last April, 19 SCBS students journeyed to Havana to study at the Fernando Alonso Ballet School, with seven of them competing in the International Ballet Schools Competition of Havana while there. (Four of those competitors were from Sarasota, with 15-year-old Sarasota High student Harold Mendez bringing home a gold.)
SCBS spokeswoman Barb Bullock says theirs is the only school in the United States teaching the Cuban approach to dance exclusively. And, clichéd though it may sound, she adds, when teaching students from other countries who speak no English, “It really doesn’t matter. The dance language is all they need.”
For tickets to the Sarasota Opera House performances, call (941) 328-1300 or go to tickets.sarasotaopera.org.
And, speaking of dance performances this sultry summer, the Sarasota Ballet’s International Intensive brings to the stage at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts two showcase performances on July 28. Again, international students have been spending weeks here honing their skills with a guest faculty including Phillip Broomhead, former principal dancer with the Royal Ballet and Houston Ballet; Etta Murfitt, associate artistic director of Matthew Bourne’s New Adventures; and Robert Parker, artistic director of Elmhurst Ballet School in the U.K. and former principal dancer with the Birmingham Royal Ballet.
The repertoire for these performances features Marius Petipa’s Paquita, La Bayadere and Swan Lake; Antony Tudor’s Continuo and Gala Performance; Sir Matthew Bourne’s Highland Fling; L. Lavrosky’s Walpurgisnacht; Arthur St. Leon’s Coppelia; and new choreography by the intensive’s faculty. For tickets, head to sarasotaballet.org or call (941) 359-0099.