Ever since its debut two years ago, Ballet Santa Barbara (BSB) has shown connections to New York, the longtime home of artistic director Carrie Diamond and her husband, music director Eric Valinksy. With A New York Perspective, the company has made a conscious effort to honor those roots while still looking toward the future.
At Friday night’s opening gala performance, the tone was at once intimate and formal as directors and choreographers addressed the audience from the stage, and dancers paid homage to the past. Many of the works in the program dated from between 1989 and 1991, a period when Diamond founded and directed the New American Ballet Ensemble in N.Y.C. Here to perform these works were two original members of that company; a third NABE dancer was even in attendance to see her choreography restaged. Dancing alongside Diamond’s New York colleagues were the members of her new company, as well as guest artists brought in especially for the performance.
From classical ballet works like Diamond’s “Concerto Allegro” (1989) and the Cecchetti-influenced duet “Serenade” (1986) to Carlos Fittante’s mysterious, sensual duet “Eden” and solo “Amantes,” both performed in masks, this BSB program was characteristically wide-ranging. Right at the heart of the evening was Benjamin Harkarvy’s “Premonition,” choreographed for NABE in 1991. Harkarvy founded Nederlands Dans Theater before heading the Juilliard Dance Division; Diamond said his approach to directing and to dance education continues to inspire her. “Premonition” is a stylized contemporary ballet quartet; the dancers wear 1920s bathing costumes and their movements reference swimming, diving, and lounging beside the water. Performed by original NABE members Fittante and Robin Gilbert Campos, along with BSB’s Colleen Bialas and Ellen O’Connell, “Premonition” was a stirring, layered work, full of bright splashes and dark undercurrents.
For Diamond and Valinsky, it all comes down to education. Their aim is to inspire young people and to encourage and support involvement in the arts. That this fledgling ballet company has brought its significant history and its continuing artistic connections to our city is quite a gift-that their vision for the future encompasses all of Santa Barbara’s children is reason to rejoice.