Sarasota calling: Ringling Int'l Arts Festival

A must for fans of cutting-edge theater, art, music and dance.

click to enlarge Asphalt Orchestra - Stephanie Berger
Stephanie Berger
Asphalt Orchestra

  • Stephanie Berger
  • Asphalt Orchestra

If a Central Florida arts festival is being talked up as far away as London, you’d have to think it was kind of a big deal, eh? Well, you’d be right; the Ringling International Arts Festival at Sarasota’s Ringling Museum of Art is a big deal — in the words of TimeOut London, its “progressive program… would rival anything in New York or London.”

The festival boasts a supreme NYC/European pedigree; it’s presented in partnership with New York’s Baryshnikov Arts Center, whose namesake artistic director, ballet legend Mikhail Baryshnikov, oversees the selection of talent and attends performances. I still remember the inaugural season three years ago, with Mr. B himself roaming the lobbies while a wonderfully motley audience gathered for offerings like the well-oiled Elevator Repair Service adaptation of The Sun Also Rises, now a sensation Off-Broadway.

This year, we’re once again being treated to a mix of theater, dance, music and art on the cutting edge. Among the must-sees on my list: Doug Elkins and Friends’ Fraulein Maria, a goofy/poignant choreographic take on The Sound of Music; the Wooster Group’s reimagining of Richard Burton’s famous black-turtlenecked 1964 Hamlet; Canta Tangos, a potentially revelatory performance of traditional Argentinian man-to-man tango; the mechanized kinetic sculptures of Swiss artist Zimoun at the Museum; and an opening-night performance by the Asphalt Orchestra, billed as a mix of halftime show and contemporary music concert that might just be the marching band to end all marching bands.