Arts Wonder Women

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It was 1925 when John Ringling first made plans to design an art museum called The Ringling, now the hallmark of Sarasota. A year later, Art Center Sarasota (know then as Sarasota Art Association) became our area’s first arts and cultural institution. Two years later in 1927, John Ringling moved Ringling Bros. and Barnum and Bailey Circus’ winter headquarters to Sarasota.

The Players was our first community theater, founded more than 80 years ago. It was 1949 when the Florida West Coast Symphony, now our Sarasota Orchestra, played its first notes. Most of our significant arts organizations have been here 50 years or more – Sarasota Opera, Asolo Rep, Manatee Players and Venice Theatre. There is no doubt that the people who moved to Sarasota in the first half of the 20th century loved the arts and supported its growth decade after decade. Today, many of our legendary arts organizations have received regional, national and even global recognition. And not only are our legendary artists making headlines, our new artists are also helping make real change in our city.

This month’s cover features five ladies from various areas of the arts. Leading these ladies is none other than our incredible circus queen – Dolly Jacobs. Surrounding the legendary Dolly are artists who are all making their mark on our community. They are artistic director and actress Summer Wallace from the contemporary and intimate Urbanite Theatre; mixed media artist Dasha Reich, whose solo shows have earned her great notice around town; Sarasota Orchestra cellist Natalie Helm, who will be the soloist in a brand new Sarasota Orchestra series called Discoveries; and Leymis Balaños Wilmott, Sarasota Contemporary Dance co-founder and artistic director, a company known for cutting edge, high-energy dance and collaborative performances with artists of various genres.


Our “Queen of the Air,” Dolly Jacobs, is a world-renowned circus aerialist and co-founder of The Circus Arts Conservatory (CAC). She has been honored with numerous accolades throughout her career including becoming the first circus artist to be named a NEA National Heritage Fellow (2015) in recognition of both her continuing artistic accomplishments and contributions as a coach and mentor. Inspired by this award, the Smithsonian Institution invited The Circus Arts Conservatory to be the presenting partner for the 2017 Smithsonian Folklife Festival, which celebrated the Circus Arts. Dolly, along with artists from around the world, performed under the Circus Sarasota Big Top on the National Mall in Washington, DC this summer for spectators from around the globe. She also was honored to share her circus legacy on the festival’s narrative stage and lead festival master coaching sessions.

The 2017/2018 season promises to be an exhilarating one for Dolly and The Circus Arts Conservatory. Renovations to the Sailor Circus Arena, the only facility in the country built for youth circus training, are scheduled to begin, marking a milestone in Sarasota’s history.  In the spirit of offering exciting new experiences, CAC is introducing a unique fundraising event called “So You Think You Can Circus” in which teams of participants will work with coaches to master and present a circus discipline such as aerial silks, wire walking, comedy or juggling – there’s something for every skill level. After training, the teams will have the opportunity to showcase their newly found talent in a dazzling event where they will compete to be named “Best of Show.” And finally, the Big Top will go up to once again house The Circus Arts Gala, Circus Sarasota and Cirque des Voix®. All of this in addition to The Sailor Circus annual shows and events including the Charity Golf Tournament are sure to keep the community engaged with and loving the circus arts.
circusarts.org | 941.355.9805


Summer Wallace is beginning to be quite well known in our theater community for her deep passion for instilling a sense of play, imagination and purpose using the medium of acting. She earned her MFA in Acting from the FSU/Asolo Conservatory in 2012. As a teaching artist, Summer has worked with Manatee School for the Arts, IMG academy, Riverview High School, New College of Florida, and Cumberland Co. Playhouse. Her regional credits include Asolo Rep, Mad Cow Theatre, Broward Stage Door, Lagniappe Theatre, and Cumberland County Playhouse, and she has toured the country playing bluegrass music.

Urbanite Theatre begins its fall programming with ten performances of the sly, poignant comedy White Rabbit Red Rabbit by Nassim Soleimanpour, in which a new performer each night is presented a script they’ve never seen or rehearsed. In November, Urbanite opens the regional premiere of Echoes by British writer Henry Naylor, a biting drama about women with parallel lives in the middle east.

In February, the company turns its sights on Northside Hollow by Brenda Withers and Jonathan Fielding. Summer Wallace will direct this story of a man trapped in a collapsed coalmine in rural Appalachia. Urbanite’s season comes to an end with the ribald, audacious comedy about the unrealistic expectations women face in Women Laughing Alone With Salad, by Sheila Callaghan.
urbanitetheatre.com | 941.321.1397


Louisville, Kentucky native Natalie Helm joined the Sarasota Orchestra for its 2016-17 season as principal cellist and plays on a Raphael di Blasio cello from 1803.

Prior to joining SO, she held the Principal and Cello Fellowship position for the Montgomery Symphony Orchestra and is a member of the Des Moines Metro Opera. She studied with Peter Wiley and David Soyer at the Curtis Institute of Music, where she received her Bachelor of Music in 2011, and with Ronald Leonard at the Colburn School, where she received an Artist Diploma in 2014. She has appeared as soloist with orchestras around the country; has performed as a chamber musician, and in concerts.

Natalie is quite excited about Sarasota Orchestra’s upcoming season, which begins with Dvorak Cello Concerto and Mahler Symphony No.5 in the opening Masterworks program and ends with Mendelssohn Octet and Brahms Clarinet Trio, which closes the Chamber Soiree series.
“It is incredibly hard to pinpoint any one program that I am most looking forward to. However, the collaboration with Midori on Bernstein’s Serenade for Violin and Orchestra obviously stands out,” said Natalie. “Having the opportunity to perform with a world-class musician who exudes inspiration is not only a highlight for the musicians of the Sarasota Orchestra, but also our audience.”

Natalie is also very excited to be soloing in a brand-new Sarasota Orchestra series called Discoveries. “I will be performing The River Cam by Eric Whitacre for cello and orchestra on the January concert called Soundscapes. The concept behind this new series includes shorter shows without intermission, each concert introducing one piece by a living composer, and my favorite part – a Q & A session with soloist and conductor immediately following the concert. I think the Sarasota community will find Discoveries to be highly accessible at any level, and I cannot wait to see its success!” sarasotaorchestra.org


Leymis Bolaños Wilmott has received many credits throughout her relatively young career. She is a recipient of the 2008 Arts Leadership Award for Artistic Achievement from the Sarasota Arts Council, and the Sarasota Artist Fellowship. She received the esteemed Dance Magazine award for Southeast Best Choreographer, and one of five choreographers chosen to participate in the Choreographer Intensive at the esteemed Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival.

Her work has been performed nationally at the John F. Kennedy Center, Ailey Citigroup Theater in NYC, Colony Theater and Jackie Gleason in Miami, as well as numerous other theaters and festivals throughout the country. Locally, she has choreographed for the Asolo Repertory Theatre, Westcoast Black Theater Troupe, Kaleidoscope, St. Petersburg College, Booker High School VPA, North Port High School, Riverview High School IB, Lakeview Elementary, Gocio Elementary, and Electa Lee Middle School.

Leymis’ deep love for dance and community building came to fruition in 2006 when she and Rachael Inman founded Fuzión Dance Artists, now known as Sarasota Contemporary Dance. She continues to advocate as a teaching artist with the Arts and Cultural Alliance of Sarasota County and Manatee County Schools. She is also an Adjunct Professor of Dance at New College of Florida, a certified Pilates Instructor at The Pilates Body, and currently serves as Vice President of the Florida Dance Association.

Leymis said she expects Sarasota Contemporary Dance’s 12th season will reach new heights with the opening of its new home on Blvd. of the Arts and Central Avenue in Sarasota’s Rosemary District. All performances will be held at the Jane B. Cook Theater at the FSU Center for the Performing Arts and will feature new and notable established choreographers like Lucy Bown McCauley, Rosanna Tavarez, and Kristin O’ Neal.

A highly anticipated collaboration with renowned harpists Ann Hobson Pilot will kick off the season in October, followed by the annual spectacle “Voices,” a hallmark to the company, presenting original and innovative choreography.  In January, “Dance Makers” will elevate the level of contemporary dance seen in Sarasota by showcasing American modern dance pioneer Ted Shawn’s male solo work along with an all-women piece by Brazilian choreographer Millicent Johnnie. Sarasota Contemporary Dance will close its season with “Evolving/Revolving,” which celebrates the company’s past and future. sarasotacontemporarydance.org


Born in Prague to Holocaust survivors, Andrea Dasha Reich’s early life was subjected to a continuum of Communism and all of its restrictions. Her dissident father’s fight against the regime would eventually result in the entire family being evicted from their homeland.

Leaving behind the dark world of Czechoslovakia, she found herself in Jerusalem, a place saturated in sunlight and vibrant bursts of colors. Her new home had a profound affect on young Dasha. She attended the world-renowned Bezalel Academy of Art and Design, and her passion for art was born. She then moved to New York’s Tribecca area and had a career in the fashion and design industry. It was during this time in New York that she opened her first studio and dedicated her time and energy into pioneering, crafting and developing the resin artwork she is known for today.

Dasha is in the planning stages of her third show at Alfstad& Contemporary Gallery on 5th Street. While she has a lot more work to do and doesn’t want to ruin the surprise, Dasha did share that her art for this show will be made from a combination of resin and latex.

Inspired by the organic shapes and planes in nature, Dasha’s art is a woven interplay of rich color spectrums that explore the depth and intimacy of the abstract world we live in. Her works are an indication of how this prolific multimedia artist sees the world; astonishing beauty, magnificent power and the intense awe-inspiring complexion in nature of which the life and creation of color is born. Through the use of pure pigments and layers of epoxy resins, her works seem to let her visions breathe with motion and fluidity.

Dasha is also involved with other local artists in Sarasota Visual Artists Studios (SVAS), which had it first season of open studios last year. The idea is that people can see how each artist lives and works. There is a season tour for which there is a cost, and studios are open for free every first Saturday of the month from November through April. This is the first venue of its type in our community, and its first season last year was quite successful. Other artists in the group include: Tim Jaeger; Elena de la Ville; Tom Stephens; Jack Dowd; Joseph Melancon; Duncan Chamberlain; Vicky Randall; Bill Buchman, and Dasha.
andreadashareich.com | sarasotavisualartistsstudios.com

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