By DAVID GAULMAN
Sarasota Phoenix Correspondent
In 1987 the Sarasota Ballet was founded by Jean Allenby-Weidner with the goal of becoming a full resident ballet company.
That goal was achieved in 1990, then in 2007 with new director Iain Webb in place expectations went through the roof.
“When I started the foundation was weak, and it took awhile to get it going” Webb said. “I was asked to give a long term commitment, and that I did.”
Webb’s background and experience brought a dynamic and exposure to the Sarasota Ballet it needed, giving the organization national and international recognition.
Webb has introduced more ballets in to the repertoire than in the Company’s previous 17-year history, including 36 world premieres, 7 American premieres, 67 Sarasota premieres and only 10 revivals.
Just last month the Sarasota Ballet wrapped up its first New York City performances in its 24-year history.
“I’m usually quick to move on to the next project, but I did reflect on it and I have to say I’m very proud of my dancers for what they did,” Webb said. “Performances like that allow us to represent Sarasota on a grander stage.”
Even with all the success to this point, there are certainly challenges for Webb and the Sarasota Ballet.
“I have to keep my feet on the ground, what we’ve done to this point has been amazing, but we aren’t where I truly want to be yet,” Webb said.
“It’s tough because you have talented dancers that have put in years with us, but our contracts and salaries aren’t where I feel they should be,” Webb added.
That hasn’t stopped dancers world wide from applying in hopes to land a spot with the Sarasota Ballet.
This past year Webb received over 440 dancer resumes and videos with only four or five spots open.
“There are dancers who see what we do, and how rare it is,” Webb says. “They want to be a part of that.”
It’s Webb’s vision and artistry that keeps him ahead of the pack. Webb has decided to mix it up this holiday season, instead of the “Nut Cracker” he has gone with “La Fille mal Gardee.” Something he is very excited about.
“Most people expect to see the Nut Cracker, but La Fille mal Gardee is truly exceptional and is the perfect family experience,” Webb said.
Webb is aware of the stereotypes surrounding the ballet, and hopes that people will step outside of their comfort zone.
“Our shows are for everyone, I know there is certain stigmas when it comes to the ballet, but they are misguided,” Webb said.
My dancers are performers, and great ones at that.”