New York choreographer Carrie Diamond and her husband, composer Eric Valinsky, founded Ballet Santa Barbara (BSB) in fall 2005. Two years later, the program of their four-show run looks like something you might expect from a mature company twice as big. Live vocal and instrumental music; complex sets including a kitchen, a bar, a bedroom, and towers of scaffolding; costumes by a veteran TV, film, and stage designer; and dancers from the Metropolitan Opera Ballet, Ailey, and Lines-it doesn’t exactly sound like a fledgling operation.
More importantly, it doesn’t look like one. BSB’s early performances showed promise, if not complete realization, of the company’s goal to bring to Santa Barbara exciting, high-quality ballet different from what was already available. But while the themes of this young company have remained the same since its foundation-a wide-ranging repertoire including Baroque, classical, and contemporary offerings; dancers with strong ballet technique; visiting guest artists; and specially commissioned scores-these elements are now coalescing into something truly substantial.
Last weekend’s program featured the premiere of Diamond’s six-scene ballet alongside the new work of three other choreographers. Lizabeth Skalski’s Rendezvous au Jardin was a lighthearted Rococo romp set to a Mozart flute quartet, highlighting the weightlessness and delicate footwork of four dancers, particularly the sylphlike Ellen O’Connell. Wayang Blues was the latest offering from BSB Artistic Associate Carlos Fittante, whose expertise in mask work always yields surprises. This time, a couple of Balinese puppets did battle with the gods while dancers presented parallel stories of love and its attendant conflicts-each vignette a new take on the pleasures and pitfalls of partnering.
Dressed in sleek black trousers and classy tops, the six dancers in Brian Carey Chung’s work entered the stage in a sudden rush, as if spilling from an overcrowded subway. With soprano Stephanie Sivers’s spine-tingling Faure songs lending passion to the proceedings, this was some of the strongest work from BSB yet, full of mood and tempo changes, crouching contortions, and long, clean lines.
The program closed on a high note with Diamond’s Eternity, Desire, and Other Predicaments, which traced the fate of three mortals-grey, haunted characters-and the two angels charged with their care. Long-limbed Eduardo Cueto and Christina Sanchez brought ethereal elegance to their otherworldly roles; the result was transcendent.