The Sarasota Ballet has long maintained a dedication to the preservation of ballet history, and a frequently overlooked—but critically significant—component of 20th century ballet is the impact women have made on sculpting the world of dance as it exists today, both through leadership and choreographic output. Early in our 2019 - 2020 Season, The Sarasota Ballet planned a multi-year initiative, titled Voices of Her, to highlight several of the countless women who have molded ballet since the art form's inception. Voices of Her would launch the following year, during our 2020 - 2021 Season.
The initial plan for our first year of Voices of Her was to close our 2020 - 2021 30th Anniversary Season with a triple-bill program at the Sarasota Opera House featuring ballets choreographed by women: Agnes de Mille's Fall River Legend, Dame Ninette de Valois' Checkmate, and Bronislava Nijinska's Les Biches. Due to the widespread effects of the COVID-19 pandemic, however, it was necessary for us to replace our live programming with an alternative series of Digital Programs; the safety measures required unfortunately made it impossible to translate these three ballets to a digital format while ensuring the well-being of our dancers. In the live program's stead, we included Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs in our final Digital Program of the Season. In addition, as part of our Terrace Program series of outdoor performances late in the Season, our second Terrace Program was comprised entirely of ballets choreographed by female dancers of The Sarasota Ballet as well as The Sarasota Ballet Studio Company.
The second year of Voices of Her, in our 2021 - 2022 Season, brings the choreography of three remarkable women to the Sarasota stage - Martha Graham, Twyla Tharp, and Dame Ninette de Valois. Graham's Appalachian Spring opens the Season in our October Program, New World. Martha Graham's enormously influential career as a choreographer, founder of the Martha Graham Dance Company, modern dancer, and teacher spanned over seventy years, and Appalachian Spring is a perfect example of her groundbreaking choreographic approach. The Sarasota Ballet is proud to be the only professional dance company other than the Martha Graham Dance Company itself to perform Appalachian Spring. Next, Twyla Tharp's Nine Sinatra Songs returns, this time as an in-person experience, in November's Day & Night Program. Ms. Tharp revolutionized the choreographic landscape with her development of the "cross-over ballet," bridging modern and classical styles through combining dance styles and utilizing contemporary music; she continues to shape the ballet scene to this day. Finally, our January Program, Love & Betrayal, highlights the founder and first Director of what would become The Royal Ballet with Dame Ninette de Valois' The Rake's Progress. Often regarded as "the godmother of British ballet," de Valois also established The Royal Ballet School and the touring company that evolved into Birmingham Royal Ballet; her leadership and impact on ballet education would influence generations of dancers and provide crucial opportunities for budding choreographers and artists that would go on to forge their own legacies. The Sarasota Ballet preserves de Valois' choreographic works through actively incorporating them into the Company's repertory, the only professional Company to do so.
Voices of Her is planned to continue into our 2022 - 2023 Season with an emphasis on women contributing to the choreographic world today. The professional Company will perform a ballet by Twyla Tharp, and will also introduce the work of choreographer Jessica Lang to Sarasota. Lang's choreography is noted for its broad range of influences including theatrical lyricism, visual art, and the geometry of the human body; her creative portfolio, consisting of nearly one hundred ballets, includes commissions from American Ballet Theatre, Pacific Northwest Ballet, Joffrey Ballet, and the Birmingham Royal Ballet, among many others. This Season also focuses on the importance of community engagement with the performing arts through offering open rehearsals as well as sponsoring lectures by visiting artists, historians, and repetiteurs. This includes cooperating with our local partners, such as the Sarasota and Manatee County public school systems and several youth organizations, to invite students to attend performances featuring female choreographers, lectures and demonstrations by Studio Company female choreographers, and more. We aim to inspire discussions around the role and impact of women in dance and the arts, to strengthen the present and build the future of women in choreography.