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Terra Nueva

Ballet Santa Barbara

At the Marjorie Luke Theatre, Saturday, November
11.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

With its debut performance just last March, Ballet Santa Barbara
(BSB) is new in town. This ambitious, full, and varied program was
the work of a company entering the dance scene with dynamism and
confidence. That confidence is well founded; the nine dancers
performing last weekend were without exception technically strong,
versatile, and dramatic—the kind of performers we’re lucky to have
in Santa Barbara. BSB Artistic Director Carrie Diamond is committed
to working with talented local dancers, and this show proved she
has found quite a few already.

The program opened with two contemporary ballets set to music by
composer Kenji Bunch. Diamond collaborated with choreographer
Melinda Horwitz on “Down Town Time,” where dancers took sudden
directional changes, flung one another’s arms away in impatience,
and repeated everyday gestures, reflecting both the frenetic score
and the disjointed, hurried quality of urban life. In Horwitz’s
brooding trio “Slowdance,” Colleen Bialas and Christina Sanchez
were two images of one woman; while Sanchez was free to extend her
limbs, Bialas was hemmed in by some unseen limitation, confined to
the space on and around a chair. Ian Vincent McGinnis danced with
one woman and then the other, moving with the slippery, weighted
fluidity of quicksilver.

The following solo, “Folia,” though based in ballet vocabulary,
came from another world altogether. Guest artist Carlos Fittante
performed this intriguing reconstruction of 15th century Portuguese
courtly dance in a lavish costume including a full mask, plumed
crown, velvet cape, and short hoopskirt.

Diamond’s wide-ranging narrative ballet “Terra Incognita” closed
the first half of the show with a series of vignettes set to Chopin
Mazurkas. Nicole Helton and Denise Woods were wickedly enchanting
as the devious duo determined to outshine one another and wreak
havoc on an innocent young couple (Bialas and Eduardo Cueto).

Post-intermission, Benjamin Harkarvy’s modern ballet “Frames”
explored the nightmarish qualities of an unhappy relationship. The
program closed with Diamond’s romantic and celebratory “Suenos
Castellanos,” with visiting dancers Juliana Bertelsen and Daniel
Whitehead joining the company. Only eight months old, BSB is
already covering promising new ground. We’re glad to have them
here.

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