Just like its productions and past galas, State Street Ballet’s gala this year was an exquisite affair from start to finish. Held at the Four Seasons Biltmore on September 23, the event raised about $80,000 for the ballet’s performances and its education and outreach programs.
The evening began with cocktails in the intimate and lush Palmera Garden across the walkway from the Loggia Ballroom. While Chris Fossek performed his own compositions on guitar, the sold-out crowd of 180 guests mingled and celebrated the start of the company’s 24th season. Before entering the Loggia Ballroom, guests were greeted by dancers in white feather costumes from An American Tango. The ballroom was elegantly appointed with gold-fabric-covered chairs surrounding tables adorned with black-and-white linens and lamps with shades etched with dancer silhouettes.
A center stage allowed for an intimate experience for all of the guests, with no one seated more than a table away from the stage. Between three scrumptious dinner courses, guests were treated to superb dance vignettes: Buona Sera by Cecily MacDougall and James Folsom, Electra by Amara Galloway, and Tarantella by various company dancers.
During the program, Executive and Artistic Director Rodney Gustafson shared his excitement for the upcoming season, which features five performances at three different venues. Gustafson explained how the company’s work goes far beyond Santa Barbara, with past tours including China, Taiwan, Chile, and states across the U.S. The evening honored longtime boardmember and supporter Arlyn Goldsby, who Gary Dorfman related “leads with her heart and her heart is truly about the ballet.” He thanked her for all her work and financial support over the many years.
Auctioneer Andrew Firestone entertained the guests with a lively auction and then was joined by Leila Drake for a paddle raise for pointe shoes, which dancers wear at a cost of $100 per pair and last sometimes only a performance and at most a week. Fundraising efforts in general are imperative as ticket sales bring in only about 40 percent of the organization’s income.
In addition to putting on performances, State Street Ballet offers three training programs: a Summer Intensive program for dancers ages 12-21, a year-round Professional Track Program, and Gustafson Dance, which offers instruction for all levels.
The company does extensive community outreach. Its Library Dances program links classic literature with dance. Students at Santa Barbara Junior High School are given dance instruction, which culminates in performances that bring to life a piece of literature the students are studying in school. Dancers provide one-on-one mentoring, which provides many benefits beyond dance training. This year’s production is Shakespeare’s Twelfth Night.
Each year, State Street Ballet does special performances for area youth. The company provides schools with a study guide to enhance the educational value and enjoyment of the performance. This year, about 2,400 students will see Jungle Book at the Granada Theatre. State Street Ballet also provides complimentary tickets for its performances to various nonprofit organizations and provides a couple of scholarships for its Summer Intensive program.
State Street Ballet’s 2018–19 season features Chaplin on Saturday October 6, The Nutcracker December 15 and 16, and the Jungle Book March 24, 2019, all at the Granada Theatre. It also includes the mixed repertory program Ballroom at the Lobero Theatre April 13 and 14, 2019, and contemporary dance works in Modern Masters at the New Vic on May 10 and 11, 2019. The company will be on tour this season in Spokane, WA, Durango, CO, Fresno, CA, and Flagstaff AZ.
For more info, go to statestreetballet.com.
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By Gail Arnold