It’s been a great season so far for the Sarasota Cuban Ballet School. Once again our professional caliber pre-professional students performed an original contemporary piece at the Selby Gardens Orchid Evening to great acclaim. The annual Nutcracker performances featured new professionally designed scenery and live music. Our dancers achieved phenomenal success at prestigious YAGP (Youth America Grand Prix) competitions – winning top honors for the dancers and accolades for co-founder and Artistic Director Ariel Serrano. Professional companies have shown great interest in six of our dancers. And Serrano realized a long time dream of giving back, with Dance for a Future, a new program for 4th and 5th graders from Title1 schools who demonstrate nascent dance ability.
Unfortunately, like so many other arts group the SCBS season came to a screeching halt – well almost. We had to cancel in studio training and rehearsals for the Spring Triple Bill which featured the classical ballets Paquita and A Midsumer Night’s Dream and Tania Vergara’s Ocean, an original acclaimed contemporary piece, first performed in 2018 with nearly 50 dancers on stage, as well as the end of the year all-school recital. The Summer Intensive, which draws young artists and professionals from throughout the world and culminates in our Annual On Stage Gala at the Sarasota Opera House is on hold.
But SCBS is more than just a training and performing group – it’s a family, a sanctuary for dancers – those who are on the cusp of launching professional careers and those who have already moved on — former students dance for two world renown UK companies, the Royal Ballet and the Birmingham Ballet, and well known US companies including the San Francisco Ballet, Ballet San Antonio, and the Sarasota Ballet, to name just a few. It’s also a ballet school – where people of all ages from 3 to 83+ can take classes, whether they are thinking about professional careers or just want to enjoy dancing recreationally.
In a relatively few years SCBS has become an important member of the Sarasota arts scene. Like many other local organizations, the Covid-19 crisis is causing the organization severe financial difficulties. As a relative newcomer to the Sarasota Arts scene, the Sarasota Cuban Ballet doesn’t have an endowment or reserve funds to help the organization through this nightmare. However, founders Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez’s first concern is their SCBS family. “We are worried about the psychological effect on our kids. They had been working so hard on the highly demanding pieces for the Spring Triple Bill and preparing for competitions and auditions.”
They’ve put their words into action. Ariel and Wilmian have reached out to the young dancers and their parents, personally assuring them that SCBS will continue. On-line virtual Zoom classes are scheduled every other day for all levels, helping the young artists to keep in shape and engaged, giving them a sense of security that they will be able to pick up where they left off when the studio re-opens. Several dancers who have moved on to professional companies are using these virtual classes to keep up with their training. They frequently come back to train during a hiatus from performing seasons or to recuperate from injuries. Serrano has also prepared training videos appropriate for people of all ages whether or not they are SCBS dancers. These can be seen on YouTube.
Serrano and Hernandez are quick to point out that they are not the only ones helping in these trying times. Two of the YAGP award winning dancers, Saela Rivera Martinez and Natalia Chersia have prepared training videos that are available on YouTube. They and other SCBS dancers are urging people to Raise the Barre and Keep Our Dream Alive by supporting SCBS during the Sarasota Community Foundation sponsored Giving Challenge which takes place noon to noon April 28-29. The Board of Directors, led by Chair Michael Shelton, is doing a great job helping SCBS to weather the financial aspects of this crisis. Board member Peter Kretzmer has pledged $5,000 toward matching Giving Challenge donations of more than $100. Other major donors indicated they will join him. (Donations between $25 and $100 are matched by The Patterson Foundation.) A committee of volunteers has taken a hands-on active role in moving the SCBS Giving Challenge campaign forward. Despite the challenges, Ariel and Wilmian are looking toward the future – planning for the 20-21 season as they find ways to Raise the Barre and Keep Our Dream Alive.
About The Sarasota Cuban Ballet School
SCBS was founded in 2011 by the Cuban-born husband and wife team of Ariel Serrano and Wilmian Hernandez. They trained at the elite Escuela Nacional de Ballet de Cuba and performed internationally. In 1993, they moved to Sarasota to join the Sarasota Ballet, where they danced as principals. Co-Artistic Directors of SCBS, they offer classes at all levels for students from age three to adults, but the heart of the School’s program is a rigorous training course to prepare talented, serious young dancers for professional careers. Students of SCBS have won numerous awards in international ballet competitions, and have gone on to perform with companies such as Dance Theater of Harlem, State Street Ballet, Ballet San Antonio, Milwaukee Ballet, Cincinnati Ballet, Sarasota Ballet, Tulsa Ballet, Ballet West, Houston Ballet, Boston Ballet, San Francisco Ballet and the Royal Ballet.
About the Cuban Style
SCBS is one of the only schools in the United States specializing in the Cuban training style, which is renowned for its athleticism, passion and precision. Developed in the 1940s by Cuban dancer Fernando Alonso, the Cuban Ballet training method has produced some of the world’s greatest dancers and is increasingly embraced by professional companies throughout the world. The Royal Ballet’s Carlos Acosta and former American Ballet Theatre principal dancers Jose Manuel Carreño and Xiomara Reyes are among the many stars who were trained in the Cuban style of ballet. It draws on elements from Russian, British, French and Italian styles and infuses them with Caribbean flavor. From day one, the training emphasizes balance, turning prowess, flexibility, jump elevation, dynamism, and partnering. The result is dancers who are technically gifted and artistically charismatic.