Tireless dancer still going strong at age 80

SARASOTA, Fla. - All too often, just as you think you've got all your ducks in a row, and your career is just where you want it to be, something comes along and knocks it all down and you have to start all over again. One Sarasota man who has started over several times is once again making a new beginning – at age 80.

Tuesday night, Robert de Warren, a retired dancer and retired director of the Sarasota Ballet, once again heads down a new path as the Sarasota International Dance Festival presents "Lifted" -- contemporary dance performed by world class dancers.

This program is cutting edge. "We specialize in creating programs and performances with international artists at the highest level. So Sarasota gets something it's never seen before," says de Warren.

To help him come up with something spectacular, he called on Drew Jacoby, international star and ballerina with the Netherlands Dance Theatre. She and her partner love trying something new and athletic like this. “Something that appeals to the older traditional audience, because of the training, but yet doing more pieces that rare relevant to today’s times," says Jacoby.

"It's more like a mixture of ballet and modern dance, a fusion," says Medhi Walerski of the Nederlands Dans Theater.

Also on the program: Lil' Buck and celloist Nina Kotova; one of many things in de Warren's program you don't expect to see on a ballet stage.

De Warren has come a long way from that young dancer who started out 56 years ago. "I was a dancer with the Royal Ballet for 4 or 5 years."

From there he danced in companies all over Europe and became a principal dancer. When foot surgery ended his dance career, he headed up a national company in Iran. "We danced at the White House…all over the world. Then the revolution came."

So he had to start over. And as he watches this totally modern perfomance of “Lifted”, he remembers how he bounced back back then, went on to head up dance companies in England and Italy, and finally became director of the Sarasota Ballet. And at retirement, he didn't ride off into the sunset, he started the Carranio Festival. And when that festival moved to the Sarasota Ballet, he started this new adventure.

The dancers are in awe of him. "Robert is a huge inspiration. To look at him at 80 years old, bringing in young contemporary artists and having an appreciation for it after many years in the rich history of dance, and to keep going at 80 years old is really an inspiration."

And so with “Lifted”, Robert de Warren takes a whole new direction in cutting edge dance at 80 years old. We can hardly wait to see what this man is going to do next.