Debut Ballet

Ballet Santa Barbara

At the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Sunday, March 12. Starting a new dance company is an arduous undertaking. Ballet Santa Barbara Artistic Director Carrie Diamond took on the task to realize her vision: original and diverse contemporary ballet performed by a combination of talented professional community dancers, students, and guest artists. Ballet Santa Barbara’s first performance delivered diversity and creativity, and enjoyable dancers, although with some overall inconsistency in the program and a few growing pains.

“The Triumph of Terpsichore” was choreographed by Diamond and set to a romantic score by David Noon. This pastoral scene, which favored mood over technique, eloquently told the story of a peasant girl led off by a pair of fairies, danced by Ellen O’Connell and Aimee Lopez. Sam Mitchell and Eduardo Cueto were strong partners for Christina Sanchez and Colleen Bialas, who played the girl enticed by the sprites.

“Premonition” was choreographed by the late Benjamin Harkarvy, creator of the Nederlands Dans Theater and Dance Division Director at Juilliard. The piece’s Ravel score and ’20s bathing costumes created an art-deco sensibility. Gesture and style abounded, particularly in the protracted solo by Carlos Fittante. Though the story was sparse, Fittante danced well with fellow bathers Bialas, O’Connell, and Lopez. Fittante reprised the role he created in this piece when Diamond presented it as part of the New American Ballet Ensemble repertoire. An eminently watchable dancer, Fittante also performed a gender-bending, culture-fusing solo “Amantes,” which merged Balinese gestures with a Spanish score.

“Midnight Tangle” began with a playful twist on a tango lesson, but suffered from a lack of chemistry between partners Kaitlyn Ezell and Shane Scopatz. Bialas’s solo “New Step Rag,” on the other hand, sparkled. Choreographed by Diamond, with music composed and performed onstage by pianist Eric Valinsky, it was easy to see how Bialas was one of the inspirations for Diamond to put together this company, whose next performance Diamond projects will be in November. For those looking for the contemporary with nods to the classical, the dancers and dances presented will be something to watch.

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