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Review | State Street Ballet ‘American Masters’

Review | State Street Ballet ‘American Masters’

Anna Carnes (left) and Francois Llorente perform Leonard Bernstein’s Chichester Psalms, which is part of this year’s American Masters program. | Credit: David Bazemore Photo

State Street Ballet entered its 25th year on Saturday, October 12, with a ravishing program of dances by co-artistic director William Soleau. The evening featured the Santa Barbara Choral Society in two of the works, and a live orchestra for all three. State Street and its partners continue to show us just how much can be done with The Granada Theatre’s features, and it is a lot. No one among the venue’s resident companies is using the building more effectively. From the choral risers to the projection screen to the orchestra pit with its built-in elevator, we saw how all the pieces of this fabulous system can work together to create true theatrical magic.

In Chichester Psalms, a dozen dancers performed in dusky rose and gray costumes lit by warm yellow light. Seen against the background of the strict black and white of the massed figures of the chorus, the pointe work and the many dazzling lifts in the choreography shone with a golden glow. After a short video clip about the composer, the chorus and eight dancers performed Soleau’s setting of Morten Lauridsen’s Lux Aeterna. This piece balanced danced sections with longer stretches for chorus alone — and featured parallel duets that gave human form to the highly spiritual music.

After the intermission, with the orchestra now in the pit and the whole stage free, Soleau’s splendid, freewheeling version of Aaron Copland’s classic Appalachian Spring took over. Using rail fence set pieces and sophisticated projections, the company told the story of a country wedding in achingly direct and wonderfully memorable terms. Ahna Lipchik and Jack Stewart were particularly outstanding as The Girl and The Boy. This has to be one of the most inspired works ever set on the company, and it was a great pleasure to see it once again on the Granada stage.

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