State Street Ballet’s (SSB) international reputation grew by another giant leap this month when the company traveled to Santiago, Chile, to perform in the Gala Internacional de Ballet at the city’s premiere venue, the Teatro Municipal de Las Condes. Organized by SSB dancers Mauricio Vera and Deise Mendonça, the gala featured 25 dancers from 12 countries and included principals from such storied companies as the Bolshoi, the Staatsballett Berlin, the Royal Ballet, and the New York City Ballet. The program mixed pas de deux and solos with some remarkable ensemble pieces that will be familiar to Santa Barbara dance fans: an extract from Edgar Zendejas’s Common Ground, William Soleau’s Five by Gershwin, and the pas de deux from Kassandra Taylor Newberry’s Conversion.
SSB associate director Leila Drake described the weeklong experience as “celebratory and unifying.” For Vera and Mendonça, the three performances of the gala and the various outreach events that surrounded them were saturated with family feeling; the two have been engaged to be married since December 2016, when he proposed to her onstage during the curtain calls of The Nutcracker. SSB’s founder and artistic director Rodney Gustafson conducted a seminar for other ballet professionals on global fundraising and international marketing, and Cecily Stewart and Drake taught a dance workshop on Carmen at the University of Santiago. The scope and ambition of this extraordinary event represents not only a new level of international prestige for SSB, but also the creation of a new set of alliances among some of the world’s top dancers. Describing the heartfelt response of the audience and the performers to the evening’s finale, Drake said that “it felt like we were one company.”
State Street Ballet’s Santa Barbara season begins at the Granada Theatre on Saturday-Sunday, October 14-15, with another ambitious collaboration when the dancers join the Santa Barbara Symphony and the Symphony Chorus for the world premiere of William Soleau’s choreography for the Requiem of Wolfgang Amadeus Mozart.