Ballet Santa Barbara brings New York Sophistication to S.B.’s
Dance Community

by Elizabeth Schwyzer

BSB-15.jpgTen years ago, New York
dancer/choreographer Carrie Diamond and her composer husband, Eric
Valinsky, started talking about leaving Manhattan. In 2002, they
finally took the plunge and moved west, relocating their family to
Santa Barbara, where Valinsky, founded an Internet consulting
company and Diamond began teaching ballet. “I was teaching a
morning class, and this young woman named Colleen Bialas started
coming a lot. I thought, ‘A couple more [dancers] like her and I
could start a company,’” Diamond said. A few months and a few newly
discovered dancers later, that’s exactly what she did. Ballet Santa
Barbara (BSB) staged its debut performance in March 2006. Next
weekend, the seven-member company stages its second show in the
form of a repertory concert at the Marjorie Luke Theatre.

Diamond is in some ways a New Yorker at heart, but she’s
committed to making BSB a company that serves and draws from the
Santa Barbara community. Although the upcoming program features a
number of guest artists from New York, it’s primarily a showcase
for Santa Barbara-based dancers and choreographers. She’s also
determined to demystify the world of professional dance, noting the
popularity of a recent patron’s showing where the audience was
invited to watch the dancers warm up and work on technique before
performing. “Audiences really appreciate seeing that stuff,”
Diamond said. “If people could understand what dancers do all the
time, they’d feel a lot closer to us. Unfortunately, ideas about
dance are usually influenced by popular culture — they either think
of So You Think You Can Dance or they picture little girls in
tutus. But dance is a contemporary, living art form — it’s exciting
and relevant.”

Diamond’s convictions and her artistic vision stem from the
considerable variety and sophistication of work she has seen
throughout the course of her career, and the company’s current
repertoire reflects that diversity. Among other pieces, BSB will be
performing two of Diamond’s own works: the West Coast premiere of
“Sueños Castellaños,” a work she choreographed for her New York
dance company New American Ballet Ensemble, and a new version of
the satiric ballet “Terra Incognita,” which premiered here in
March. “‘Terra Incognita’ is a response to my first introduction to
Santa Barbara — to the human ‘terra,’ so to speak,” Diamond said.
The program will also include work by local dance artist Melinda
Horwitz, whose background in Horton technique, jazz, and hip-hop
informs her contemporary ballet vocabulary.

Horwitz’s barefoot trio “Slowdance” is set to an original score
by Kenji Bunch, the rapidly rising young composer who recently
collaborated with New York’s Parsons Dance Company. Also on the
program is “Folia,” a solo by guest artist Carlos Fittante whose
interest in unusual dance forms ranges from Balinese to Baroque,
and the duet “Frames,” created by the late, internationally
renowned choreographer, director, and ballet master Benjamin
Harkarvy and originally danced by Diamond and Fittante. “Frames” is
set to an original score by Valinsky, BSB’s music director.

All in all, Diamond seems determined to bring the best of the
dance world to Santa Barbara and to bring out the best in Santa
Barbara’s dancers. Her plan is to develop a more extensive schedule
of daily technique classes for dancers of all levels, eventually
securing a dedicated studio space downtown. She talks about
educating the entire community, offering everyone an opportunity to
experience dance. “A city isn’t civilized until there are lots of
dancers,” Diamond said. “They’re the closest things we have to gods
and goddesses, and yet they’re just people — disciplined,
dedicated, beautiful people who synthesize and process life through
their art and through their bodies.”


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