On August 4, the John E. Profant Foundation for the Arts hosted its 20th annual Fiesta Finale, a fabulous evening of mingling and dining followed by stellar dance, song, and musical performances in the intimate setting of El Paseo Restaurant. Event proceeds fund scholarships for Santa Barbara County artists of all ages.
A sold-out crowd of 170 guests, many clad in Fiesta attire, mingled during the lively reception in the festively decorated dining room while the Martinez Brothers provided the tunes. Emcee Mignonne Profant, one of the family foundation’s founders, welcomed guests and introduced Andres Vadin, who provided lovely flamenco guitar music during the dinner hour. At the close of dinner, when most fundraisers end, the evening was just beginning. An outstanding line-up of performers dazzled the audience and, thanks to the intimate setting of El Paseo, each guest enjoyed an immersive experience.
To kick off the show, Arthur Murray Dance Studio owners Kristen Salazar and Serge Chmelnitzki performed a lively and fun cha-cha number. Tenor Marco Antonio Labastida serenaded guests with melodies of Fiesta, endearing himself to many in the room. Brittany Petersen and Josh Ochoa delighted the audience with a bolero performance. Past scholarship recipients The Santa Barbara Piano Boys — Rhyan Shweyk, 14, and Zeyn Shweyk, 15 — wowed the audience with duets. The Piano Boys have been playing classical piano since age 5, composing since age 8, and teaching others for a couple of years.
The entertainment paused briefly to honor this year’s scholarships recipients: Howard Jay Smith, Angela Borda, Robert Cassidy, Marc Sucher, Taj Vaccarella, and Vibiana Pizano Smith. Four individuals were recognized with Michelangelo Awards for their contributions to the Profant Foundation: Debbie (Saucedo) Bruce, Karen Woosley, Susan Petrovich, and Mimi Michaelis. The costume contest was won by Laurie Leis and Julie Ann Brown, as determined once again by contest judge Lynda Millner.
A highlight of the evening was the tableau vivant. Professional dancers Ricardo Chavez and Lakshmi Basile and others posed onstage to re-create the 1963 painting Spanish Dancer by Juan Giralt Lerin. Then, in Profant tradition, the artwork came to life through a beautiful flamenco dance performance by Chavez and Basile, singing by José Cortés, and guitar music by Antonio Triana. Witnessing the transition from still image to dynamic performance was pure delight. Afterward, Chavez and Basile continued to entertain with more fiery flamenco dancing. The evening closed with the return of the Martinez Brothers for guests’ dancing pleasure.
The Profant Foundation supports artists of all ages in Santa Barbara County. In the past three years, the foundation has awarded a total of $25,000 in dance, music, literature, acting, and visual arts scholarships. Its mission is fueled by the belief that by supporting the lives of artists, these artists will enrich the lives of countless others.
The foundation was formed by four sisters: Marie, Mignonne, Michèle, and Musette Profant and their mother Lyn Profant, to honor the sisters’ father and Lyn’s husband, John Profant. John was a performer and supporter of the arts in Santa Barbara, as were his parents, Dr. Henry and Mabel Profant, who helped found the Community Arts Music Association (CAMA). The event is quite fittingly held at El Paseo during Fiesta because John met Lyn there during Fiesta in 1950 when he asked her to dance. The Spanish Dancer painting featured in the tableau vivant also had special meaning – it hung in John’s office and reminded him of Lyn. It was the basis of the first tableau vivant and quite appropriately was brought back for this special 20th anniversary event.
For more information about the Profant Foundation, go to profantfoundation.org.
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