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Ringling International Arts Festival Returns

This fourth annual arts event features international performers at Ringling Museum.

The Ringling International Arts Festival (RIAF), an artistic collaboration between the New York City-based Baryshnikov Arts Center and Sarasota’s own The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, will start its fourth year of performances beginning today.

All of the performances will take place on the grounds of the beautiful Ringling estate, in and around the museums and performance galleries through Saturday. One of the hallmarks of the internationally-known festival is its ability to appeal to the tastes of a wide variety of aficionados of music, theatre, dance and film.

“As an emerging center for the practice, study and presentation of contemporary art, the art of our time, the Ringling Museum is taking bold steps to bring to Southwest Florida innovative, edgy, and dynamic works created by artists that are shaping trends in contemporary art,” said Steven High, executive director of The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “RIAF is a community celebration where audiences have the opportunity to experience the best artistic talent in the world. This year’s RIAF lineup shapes up to be exciting.”

The city of Sarasota was recently voted No. 1 in a reader poll of American Style Magazine’s annual list of best American arts destinations with populations of 100,000 people or less. Because of that reputation, the RIAF is able to attract some of the biggest names in the realm of the arts.

Kicking off the festival will be the New York City-based Mike Morris Dance Group (MDMG), one of the world’s leading dance companies. Mark Morris, having just finished up his Lincoln Center conducting debut, will be combining his dance creations with live music, making for an electrifying performance.

“The program will consist of four selections ranging from one of MMDG’s earliest creations to a new work titled, ‘A Wooden Tree’”, said Scott Gardiner, Public Relations Manager at The John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art. “Joining the Ensemble for its performance of ‘A Wooden Tree’ is Festival director and past performer Mikhail Baryshnikov.”

Morris said he’s thrilled to be working with Baryshnikov on this new project.

“Misha is a fabulous dancer and a close friend,” Morris said. “Our collaboration goes way back. We haven’t worked on a dance together for quite a while so it is exciting and comfortable to work on this new piece. He fits right in with my wonderful dancers.”

On the music front, this year’s featured performers will include Ensemble Basiani, an all-male polyphonic choir from the Republic of Georgia. The group is well-known for its profound harmonies and intricate vocal layering.

“Audiences in the Historic Asolo Theater will be transformed by a journey that takes them straight to the heart of Georgian folk tradition,” Gardiner said. “The music of Ensemble Basiani may be steeped in ancient tradition, but their otherworldly sound is contemporary.”

This year marks the first time the RIAF will be screening films. One of the films in the series, “Carmen and Geoffrey,” is a documentary about two living legends of dance. Carmen de Lavallade and Geoffrey Holder helped energize the world of modern dance in the 1950s and 1960s.  The film contains interviews and dance performances with Alvin Ailey, Herbert Ross, Lester Horton, Joe Layton, Duke Ellington and Josephine Baker.

For the festival’s closing night party, the organizers chose the Dirty Dozen Brass Band, which will be performing in the courtyard of the art museum. Gardiner describes the New Orleans-style band’s sound as a “jambalaya” of the senses.

“The Dirty Dozen Brass Band incorporates funk and bebop into the traditional New Orleans style,” Gardiner said. “The Band’s signature is playing genre-bending romps, including a variety of jazz, New Orleans R&B, Jazz fusion, funk and soul.”

Ringling International Arts Festival

When: Wednesday through Saturday

Where: John and Mable Ringling Museum of Art, 5401 Bay Shore Road

Tickets: Start at $10 per person

Schedule Of Performaces and Ticket Purchasing: www.ringlingartsfestival.org and 941-360-7399

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