Students from about 20 Santa Barbara schools crowded the Granada Theatre on Friday morning for a special performance of State Street Ballet's <em>Cinderella</em>.
Paul Wellman

The ornate house of the Granada Theatre filled with the merry din of schoolchildren on Friday, their classes rerouted for a morning of ballet and Prokofiev. Anticipation was high among the early group of 1,400 students assembled from across about a dozen schools to see a special 45-minute version of Cinderella performed by State Street Ballet and choreographed by its director, Rodney Gustafson. Waiting for the performance to begin, Mia, Olivia, Kaden, Francisco, and Tiago from Ms. Brown’s 5th grade class at Roosevelt elementary, all of whom play a musical instrument, thought it was “awesome” that they were there to watch a dance version of a film they knew well, and they had expectations for costumes.

Granada house manager Megan Landry explained that two performances would allow almost 3,000 schoolkids to see the ballet, one of five theater arts events offered by a collaboration between arts groups — UCSB’s Arts & Lectures, Santa Barbara Symphony, Ensemble Theatre Company, and State Street Ballet — and the Santa Barbara Education Foundation. The funding support came from the Education Foundation’s “Leni Fund,” nicknamed for the late Leni Fe Bland and spearheaded by Sara Miller McCune, said the foundation’s Margie Yahyavi. This year alone also brought MacBeth, Porgy & Bess, symphony performances, and Wynton Marsalis live to Santa Barbara schoolchildren of all ages.

As streams of kids for the second performance filed into the theater, out on the sidewalk, 6th graders from Mr. Fereday’s class at McKinley elementary were still digesting the performance they’d just seen. One group seemed nonplussed, mainly expressing a hearty gratitude for the change in venue. Their classmates found the two stepsisters “wiggling around” funny, immediately identifying the gender swaps. Another said it was “inspiring” to see a performance that said “stand up for yourself,” before his line moved off for the bus back to campus.

The State Street Ballet performs Cinderella at its full length Sunday at 2 p.m. at the Granada Theatre, with student pricing available.


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