Last year's Summer Intensive performance

Image: Soho Images

When people think of the Cuban dance scene, they likely think of salsa, but when the Ballet Nacional de Cuba was founded in 1948 by prima ballerina Alicia Alonso, the new company initiated a unique new ballet style, one that dance students learn right here in Sarasota every summer.

The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School is currently halfway through its six-week Summer Intensive program, which brings students ages 8-24 from five different countries and 12 different states to hone their skills at the studio under the watchful eye of Sarasota Cuban Ballet co-founder Ariel Serrano and his team of instructors. All students who choose to participate in the daily program must go through an audition process to be accepted, and international students are housed at newly built Sarasota Opera artists' residences and are shuttled to class. The rigorous lessons involve specific technique work, as well as learning new pieces, and the students practice both classical and contemporary styles of ballet. At the culmination of the six weeks, the students will show off what they have learned during two special performances at the Sarasota Opera House.

Professional dancer Alexandra Burman

"The Cuban ballet, to me, just means the dance is performed more athletically," explains professional dancer and Summer Intensive student Alexandra Burman. "Splits are higher and the jumps are wider."

Burman, a past Summer Intensive participant, returned to Sarasota this summer to be "tuned up" before starting her dream job dancing with the Birmingham Royal Ballet in August. Burman has been training at the Cuban Ballet School since it was founded in 2011. She says it's the amazing instructors who keep her coming back. “Anyone can give you a class. Not anyone can teach," Burman says. "Here, they care about the whole development of the person and will be with you through all the ups and downs.”

If you want to catch the talented dancers of the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School in action, they will be performing at 1:30 and 7:30 p.m. on Saturday, July 27, at the Sarasota Opera House, 61 N. Pineapple Ave., Sarasota. Tickets can be purchased online or by calling (941) 328-1300.