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The Sarasota Ballet Brings Ballet History to Life

Poetry and Liberty, marks an important moment in dance history, with the much-anticipated revival of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions.

Presented by The Sarasota Ballet February 15, 2019

Friday, March 8, opening night of The Sarasota Ballet’s performances of Poetry and Liberty, marks an important moment in dance history, with the much-anticipated revival of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions. Not seen since its last performance in London in 1987, the process to return the ballet to the stage has been a labor of love for Director Iain Webb and The Sarasota Ballet. For the past two years the company has worked with the Victoria and Albert Museum in London, Sir Frederick Ashton’s nephew Anthony Russel Roberts, choreologist Grant Coyle and the head of the Birmingham Royal Ballet’s Scenic Presentation, Doug Nicholson. Together, with remnants of the production from the 1987 revival, The Sarasota Ballet has painstakingly reconstructed all of Cecil Beaton’s exquisitely designed scenery and costumes.

Cecil Beaton’s Original Design (5)

Choreographed in 1936, Apparitions helped to strengthen Ashton’s claim to be taken seriously in his early choreographic years and helped define his future relationship with his muse, Dame Margot Fonteyn. It also cemented his presence as a choreographer in view of the scale and complexity of the ballet, a feat more ambitious than anything he had attempted so far. Apparitions opens and closes in the poet’s study, before he enters a ballroom moving through the eloquently disposed dancers in an opiate-inspired trance, futilely pursuing the unattainable L’Amour Supreme. The ensuing scene becomes a macabre nightmare before the poet kills himself in despair and is borne away in a cortege led by the girl of his morbid dreams. Performing the roles originally created for Dame Margot Fonteyn and Sir Robert Helpmann for these upcoming performances will be Sarasota Ballet principal Victoria Hulland and international guest artist Marcelo Gomes.

Victoria Hulland in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions.   

“Reviving Apparitions is not only the highlight of the season for me, but also one of the most important revivals that The Sarasota Ballet has undertaken,” explains Webb. “I first saw the ballet through the grainy footage of the ballroom scene when it was performed by Dame Margot Fonteyn and Rudolf Nureyev at Sir Fred’s 70th birthday gala. There was no question that this was a masterpiece and an incredible example of Ashton’s choreography at its finest, resplendent with his signature musicality, use of the body, fast footwork and dramatic flair. I felt very strongly that The Sarasota Ballet, together with Grant Coyle’s expertise, needed to awaken this important work of art before it was lost to future generations.”

Robert Helpmann in Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions.

Poetry and Liberty also features George Balanchine’s Stars and Stripes, his vibrant and patriotic tribute to the United States of America. This pièce d’occasion evokes Fourth of July parades and was created as a salute to the choreographer’s adoptive country. The work is divided into five campaigns and set to musical marches by American composer John Philip Sousa. A full-company ballet, Stars and Stripes includes baton twirling and military marching. The company will also be accompanied by the Sarasota Orchestra under the baton of American Ballet Theatre music director Ormsby Wilkins.

The program also acts as the final homage in The Sarasota Ballet’s Season of Tributes, celebrating Dame Margot Fonteyn’s Centennial with the revival of Apparitions, created on her by Ashton in 1936.

Dame Margot Fonteyn

Appointed by Queen Elizabeth II as Prima Ballerina Assoluta of The Royal Ballet, Dame Margot Fonteyn’s distinguished career made her a household name the world over. The Sarasota Ballet pays tribute to this incredible lady with these performances of Sir Frederick Ashton’s Apparitions in celebration of her centennial this year.

“Margot was an awe-inspiring dancer and a very special and beautiful person,” says Margaret Barbieri, assistant director of The Sarasota Ballet. “I was so privileged to have spent time with her during my career at The Royal Ballet. From the moments spent together in our dressing room, during company class, or performing together, she personified what it meant to be a true artist. This is why it is so vital for us to pay tribute to her with this program. Her impact on the world of dance has been enormous and it is a particular honor to celebrate this important anniversary. I will always treasure the memories I have of Margot, especially during her final performances with the Sadler’s Wells Royal Ballet here in Florida, during our 1986 tour, where I had the true honor of having Margot perform the Queen Mother to my Aurora in The Sleeping Beauty.” 

Performance Schedule and Ticket Information

8 - 9 March 2019
Van Wezel Performing Arts Hall

Friday, March 8, at 7:30 p.m.
Saturday, March 9, at 2 p.m.
Saturday, March 9, at 7:30 p.m.

Choreography by Sir Frederick Ashton
Music by Franz Liszt

Stars and Stripes
Choreography by George Balanchine
Music by John Philip Sousa 

Individual tickets for Poetry and Liberty, starting at $30, are on sale now at sarasotaballet.org or by calling (941) 359-0099.