Make us your home page

Today’s top headlines delivered to you daily.

(View our Privacy Policy)

St. Petersburg City Ballet to hold auditions

ST. PETERSBURG — The empty dance studio on a bustling section of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. Street N doesn't look like much.

Office chairs sit abandoned in a corner of the lobby. Dust is collecting on the mirrors in the high-ceilinged studios. But to hear Michelle Starbuck tell it, it's a paradise.

"I want this to become like a home for our students," she said recently during a tour of the studio, gesturing to a row of empty lockers. "I want them to feel like they belong."

Starbuck is one of the driving forces behind the rebirth of the Florida West Ballet, which will re-emerge this fall as the St. Petersburg City Ballet at its new headquarters, with Starbuck and her colleague Richard Sias as directors. Though Florida West has been teaching young dancers and holding performances in St. Petersburg for 30 years, Starbuck hopes to transform it into a training center and professional company that explores more creative, modern forms of ballet.

"St. Petersburg needs to get its self-esteem back," she said. "There's that label that everything good comes from the major centers like New York City. I've found throughout years of travel that small villages have as much talent and raw material as New York."

Starbuck, one of the first graduates of Canada's National Ballet School, is an energetic woman who moves like she's still onstage, gesturing emphatically when she wants to make a point. She was 14 years old, in a pas de deux class at the school, when she met her classmate, Sias.

Years later, they met again as professors at the University of South Florida and parted ways a second time until earlier this year, when they partnered to help launch the St. Petersburg City Ballet.

Sias, for his part, danced in national companies and on Broadway before moving to USF and then Florida State University. He says he agreed to direct the new company on one condition: that it undergo a complete makeover.

"In all honesty, I was really not interested in getting into a small amateur group at grass roots level," he said. "Our goal is to change that under the auspices of the St. Petersburg City Ballet."

That change, Sias said, only comes with changing the culture at Florida West. He's planning intensive training classes and special sessions that let students practice character dancing or their best pas de deux. He's looking for "sophisticated, mature, talented kids" from the Tampa Bay area to audition for the program on Saturday. In time, he hopes, many of them will move on to dance in the ballet's professional company.

"A professional dance company with professional training is a missing piece in our already diverse group of arts organizations," said Elizabeth Brinklow, the city's public art coordinator. "And they're homegrown, designed expressly for St. Petersburg."

For now, Sias and Starbuck are focusing on the auditions with the hope of holding their first show in the spring — and they can count on at least one dancer showing up.

Tammy Marvel, the ballet's new president, says she'll be bringing her 14-year-old daughter, Samantha, to auditions. Samantha, who once danced for Florida West, left for a more intensive dance program in Sarasota but plans to return to St. Petersburg for classes this year.

"Oh, she'll be here," Marvel said recently, walking across the dusty studio floor. "A lot of the kids are going to come back home."

Aubrey Whelan can be reached at or (727) 893-8316.

.Fast facts

If you go

Local students interested in auditioning for the St. Petersburg City Ballet's training program can audition Saturday. An additional, shorter audition will be held on Aug. 20.

Where: St. Petersburg City Ballet headquarters, 290 Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. St. N

When: Auditions for upper intermediate and advanced ballet levels (13 years and older) begin at 10 a.m. Auditions for intermediate levels (12 years and older) begin at 12:30 p.m. Auditions for upper beginners and elementary levels begin at 2:30 p.m.

Details: Dancers should bring pointe shoes if they have them. Audition attire is a black leotard and pink tights for girls and a white shirt, black pants and ballet slippers for boys. No jewelry or hair bows.

E-mail or visit the company website to download a registration form.

St. Petersburg City Ballet to hold auditions 08/06/11 [Last modified: Saturday, August 6, 2011 4:31am]
Photo reprints | Article reprints

© 2017 Tampa Bay Times


Join the discussion: Click to view comments, add yours

  1. Coming to Netflix in July: 'Rogue One,' 'E.T.,' 'Castlevania' and more


    Just when I think Netflix has outdone itself with new releases and originals, it surprises me with another month of superb offerings coming to the streaming site.

    Felicity Jones in Rogue One: A Star Wars Story
  2. Jones: Serena Williams, and all women, deserved better from John McEnroe


    John McEnroe might be the best sports analyst in broadcasting.

    Serena Williams makes a backhand return to her sister Venus during the women's singles final at the Australian Open tennis championships in January in  Melbourne, Australia. [AP photo]
  3. Watch: Provocateur targets CNN producer with hidden camera video


    NEW YORK —A conservative provocateur posted a video Tuesday of a man identified as a CNN producer commenting on his network's coverage of President Donald Trump and connections to Russia.

    Anthony Scaramucci, a senior adviser to President-elect Donald Trump, talks to reporters in the lobby of Trump Tower in New York. [Associated Press]
  4. Protesters demand Confederate statue be moved from old Hillsborough courthouse


    TAMPA – Politicians, clergy and community leaders demanded Tuesday that the Hillsborough County commission reverse course and remove a Confederate monument from the old county courthouse.

    (From left) Mike Reed, Kristen Perry and Dayna Lazarus hold protest signs Tuesday in front of a Confederate monument on the grounds of Hillsborough County's old courthouse. Protesters want the statue removed. ALESSANDRA DA PRA   Times]
  5. Man charged with threatening Florida lawmaker on Facebook


    From The Associated Press:

    MIAMI — A Florida man has been charged with threatening to kill a state legislator in a Facebook post. 

    This booking photo released by the Miami-Dade Police Department shows Steve St. Felix, who has been charged with threatening to kill Republican state Rep. Jose Felix Diaz in a Facebook post.