For Love of Dance

For Sydney Goldstein who, with her husband Jerome was inducted last year into the Sarasota Ballet’s Pavlova Society for patrons who contribute $1 million or more to the company, her association with the ballet has always been a labor of love.

“I’ve loved the ballet for as long as I can remember,” Goldstein said. “I started attending the ballet here in 2001. After a few years, I started supporting it financially. Then I was invited to be on the board of directors, which I served on for several years. Then I was elected president of the board.”

Originally from Buffalo, N.Y., the Goldsteins moved to Sarasota permanently in 2004 after visiting as snowbirds for decades.

“Friends were living here and when my husband retired we decided to move here to be near all of Sarasota’s cultural attractions,” she said.

Once she was ensconced as president of the Sarasota Ballet’s board, Goldstein made it her goal to do two things: get the ballet out of debt and find a new artistic director for the company, who turned out to be Iain Webb.

“When I was president of the board, I and several other board members felt the ballet was going in the wrong direction,” she said. “We needed to make a change and it was up to me as president to make that happen. Iain was by far the best candidate for the job. He had danced with The Royal Ballet in London and was assistant director of the K-Ballet in Japan, one of that country’s leading ballet companies. He was the right age and it was the right time to bring him here to be our artistic director.”

Goldstein added what clinched her decision to hire Webb in 2007 was when she took him on a tour of the ballet and then of Sarasota, but he insisted on returning to watch the dancers work.

“He was the only candidate who did that,” she said. “It was just totally obvious that he had to be the one for us.”

By 2010 the ballet carried a $700,000 deficit, but under the direction of Webb and his wife and assistant director, Margaret Barbieri — along with support from donors such as the Goldsteins and the late philanthropist Ted Weiller — it has been in the black for six years. Goldstein is proud of that, how far the ballet has come, and what a bright future it has.

“Our repertoire is unbelievable,” she said. “We have over 100 ballets in the repertoire. It is now on a fine financial footing. It was tough going in Iain’s first three years, but we made it. We also have the advantage of having Margaret Barbieri, who was a former star of The Royal Ballet, come here with Iain to be his assistant director. When we hired Iain, he told us he was married with a son, but he never told us who Maggie was. She was a big bonus and she has done wonders with all of the girls in the company.”

Now Board Chair Emerita, Goldstein-added future goals for the ballet include continued financial success and stability in the company’s leadership.

“We would also like to do more touring,” she said. “Because the more you tour, the more other people see your company and the better it is. We’ve also have a special fund for hiring orchestras, because there is nothing like having live music when one goes to the ballet. We do seven productions a year and four of them are covered by live music. That means that whenever we’re at the Van Wezel or the Opera House, we can have an orchestra, because both of those venues have a pit. Asolo Rep doesn’t have one.”

Goldstein’s ultimate goal is for the ballet to have its own theater, rather than bouncing between the three venues it shares with other cultural events in Sarasota.

“It would be so lovely to have a theater we could call our own,” she said. “That would be wonderful. We are so cramped for space, because we have a very large school, the Margaret Barbieri Conservatory, which is a pre-professional school for ballet dancers. We also have our Dance — The Next Generation, which is a scholarship program designed to help disadvantaged children do better in life. It would be nice to have all of that under one roof. Maybe one day we will.”