A Royal Invitation

The Sarasota Ballet Will Perform at the Royal Opera House in London Next Year

The specially curated performances will feature the works of renowned Royal Ballet choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton.

By Staff April 26, 2023

Danielle Brown, Daniel Pratt and Ricardo Rhodes in Sir Frederick Ashton's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales.

Image: Frank Atura

The Sarasota Ballet has announced its first international tour to London at the invitation of The Royal Ballet’s director Kevin O’Hare. Over seven performances from June 4-9, 2024, the Sarasota Ballet will perform two programs that culminate with a gala performance during its one-week residency in the Linbury Theatre in London's Royal Opera House. The performances are dedicated to and will feature the works of renowned choreographer Sir Frederick Ashton, former principal choreographer and director of the Royal Ballet.

“This first international tour by the company is very much a homecoming for both director Iain Webb and assistant director Margaret Barbieri,” says Joseph Volpe, Sarasota Ballet's executive director. “Iain and Maggie’s remarkable careers on stage with The Royal Ballet have been a huge influence on the company and have catapulted The Sarasota Ballet’s transformation into the internationally recognized company it is today. This invitation by The Royal Ballet is a huge milestone in the history of our company.”

Both Webb and Barbieri danced for many years with The Royal Ballet. During their tenure—Barbieri as a principal dancer; Webb as a first soloist—they danced numerous principal and featured roles in ballets around the world. During this time, Ashton's ballets left an indelible impression on both Webb and Barbieri. Their passion for Ashton and his choreographic legacy has played an integral role in the growth and trajectory of The Sarasota Ballet.

“Honoring the works of Sir Fred has been an inspiration to us, and performing his ballets has cemented the company’s place in the world of ballet,” says Webb. “Margaret and I have talked for a few years about holding another Ashton Festival, like we did in 2014, and so while in conversation with [The Royal Ballet's Kevin O'Hare] to discuss upcoming projects, I mentioned this idea. From there, it evolved into this truly marvelous invitation and partnership. Sir Fred and his works have been an inspiration to me throughout my career and being able to pay tribute to him in this manner, and at the Royal Opera House, is truly indescribable for me.”

Iain Webb and Kevin O'Hare in Sir Frederick Ashton's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales.
Iain Webb and Kevin O'Hare in Sir Frederick Ashton's Valses Nobles et Sentimentales.

“It has been an immense pleasure to extend this invitation to our wonderful former Royal Ballet colleagues who have shown so much commitment to preserving the legacy of Frederick Ashton," O'Hare says. "We very much look forward to welcoming Iain, Margaret and the dancers of The Sarasota Ballet to the Royal Opera House for this shared celebration of Ashton across both our stages.”

The performances, which will feature several rare Ashton ballets, will mark the start of a five-year, worldwide program spearheaded by the Frederick Ashton Foundation, duly named "Ashton Celebrated." Both The Sarasota Ballet and The Royal Ballet will perform Ashton programs during this concurrent Ashton celebration within the Royal Opera House. In addition, the two companies will come together for collaborative performances throughout the week.

During The Sarasota Ballet’s June 7 gala evening in the Linbury Theatre, The Sarasota Ballet will peform Ashton’s The Walk to the Paradise Garden. Other works The Sarasota Ballet will perform include Valses Nobles et Sentimentales, Dante Sonata, Sinfonietta, Façade, Varii Capricci and more, to be announced at a later date.

“I can’t fully express how meaningful this is to be able to give our wonderful dancers the opportunity to perform in the Royal Opera House,” says Barbieri. “Not only will our company be able to perform on such a prestigious stage, but to be instrumental in returning these works to their spiritual home, after so many years, will be so incredibly special for Iain and me, the dancers and the audience.”

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