The Best Come Out West

Summer Intensive Final Performance, presented by State Street

At the Lobero Theater, Sunday, July 23.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

Proud parents, friends, and dance fans braved sweltering heat
Sunday afternoon for a performance culminating State Street
Ballet’s month-long Summer Intensive Workshop, fanning themselves
with folded programs as the dancers sweated it out beneath stage
lights. Now in its ninth year, the program offers an annual
opportunity for students aged 12-21 to sample the life of a
professional dancer — a full-time training program of technique
classes, coaching, and rehearsals leading up to a full-length
public performance.

The 54 talented dancers of this year’s Summer Intensive were
selected in a series of auditions held across the country, some
traveling from as far as New York and New Jersey to take part.
SSB’s Summer Intensive stands out from among other comparable
summer dance programs because its final production takes
participants onto a professional stage with full lights and
costumes. They may have had only four weeks of SSB training, but
the students from this year’s program bore the company’s signature
style, delivering a show that was technically impressive and
classically grounded, risk-taking and highly entertaining.

In keeping with the company’s dedication to tradition, the
production opened with excerpts from Swan Lake, staged by
SSB’s Ballet Mistress Maria Fliagrina. As Prince Siegfried,
Benjamin Koehl delivered a lively stage presence, his beautifully
controlled pirouettes garnering appreciative hollers. In their
free-flowing, romantic white tutus, the 26 swans were a
breathtaking bunch — impressively synchronized yet individually

The emphasis was on precision, but these dancers had a chance to
show some spunk, too. Associate director of the program Richard
Dickinson choreographed an airy ballet set to Fauré, allowing some
of the older, more accomplished dancers to shine. Younger dancers
in board shorts bopped and grooved in SSB company member Alyson
Mattoon’s playfully jazzy Beach Party, while others made
an adept transition from the weightlessness and control of
classical ballet to the weight sharing and release of modern dance
in UCSB faculty member Nancy Colahan’s study on the circle,
Mini-Circular #3.

The program ended on a high note with the works of current SSB
company member Autumn Eckman. Koehl was back and in top slapstick
form in the comedic duet Perfect Match, suitably
well-paired with live-wire Jackie Zhao, while ballet went Broadway
with the big band swing tunes of I’ve Got You Under My

For SSB, investing in education has been a generous move and a
smart one: the professional company has recruited two female
dancers from the program to join upcoming performances. Like the
rest of the program’s participants, they’ve proved they can handle
State Street’s heat.


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