Men in Tights

Excerpts from La Sylphide and Napoli, presented by State Street Ballet

At Gustafson Dance, Sunday, February 4.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

La_Sylphide.jpgIt required dedication to come out on Super Bowl Sunday for a mid-afternoon preview of two classical ballets to be performed this coming weekend, but State Street Ballet rewarded its loyal supporters richly, and not only with a delicious buffet.

Before the curtain parted to reveal the first segment of the 19th-century ballet La Sylphide, SSB’s artistic director Rodney Gustafson came forward to share with the audience a brief history of ballet. He pointed out that, for many years, ballet was a male-dominated realm. It wasn’t until the late 18th century that women were permitted to appear onstage, ushering in the era of the so-called Romantic ballet, of which La Sylphide is the prime example. La Sylphide, which was first performed in Paris in 1832, originally starred Marie Taglioni, a tiny girl whose slight frame emphasized her character’s other-worldly qualities. But Marie was desperate to appear elongated and slender, so she begged her father, the ballet’s choreographer Filippo Taglioni, to allow her to dance on her toes. Marie’s ethereal “toe-dancing” was wildly popular, and thus was born the classic image of the slender, delicate female ballerina, as well as the modern phenomenon of women dancing en pointe.

As the sylph, Sylvia Rotaru was fittingly tiny, flitting across the studio with her mortal lover in hot pursuit. His powerful legs partially hidden beneath a Scottish kilt, Ryan Camou commanded attention and pulled off a particularly impressive scissor kick. In long, flowing tutus, the chorus showed well-rehearsed unison and strong technique, making the ballet’s complex geometries look effortlessly natural. Two short segments of another Romantic ballet, Napoli, followed, showcasing the skills of seven of the company’s male dancers alongside the women.

At the end of the showing, Gustafson called the whole company onto the studio floor. They all seemed eager, dedicated, and delighted to interact with their audience, if also a little tired. When asked about the physical requirements of this particular technique, one male dancer cheerfully explained that Napoli’s combination of unusually slow, high jumps and rapid footwork left them all sore for weeks. “These guys are burning about 3,000 calories a day!” Gustafson announced proudly. Those of us sitting in our seats may not have earned our calories in quite the same way. Then again, something about watching live dance quickens the pulse. And when it comes to watching men in tights, lemon bars and live ballet sure beats sitting on the sofa eating cheese puffs.

To submit a comment on this article, email or visit our Facebook page. To submit information to a reporter, email

Be succinct, constructive, and relevant to the story. Leaving a comment means you agree to our Discussion Guidelines. We like civilized discourse. We don't like spam, lying, profanity, harassment or personal attacks.

comments powered by Disqus
event calendar sponsored by:

Dyer Returns as Interim Fire Chief

When Eric Peterson steps down, Mike Dyer will fill in for County Fire.

Santa Barbara Bodybuilder Wins Mr. Olympia Competition

At 43, Shawn “Flexatron” Rhoden ties for the oldest champ in the contest's history.

Renovated Cabrillo Ball Park Now Open

The park got new exercise equipment, multi-use grass turf areas, and an upgraded softball field.

UCSB Researcher Charged with Molesting Child on Campus

Dr. Hongjun Zhou was arrested September 6.

Teen Serial Robber Caught and Confesses

The suspect was identified through an anonymous tipster.