Jack Stewart and Leila Drake Fossek leave it all on the dance floor as Yolanda and Frank Veloz in State Street Ballet’s An American Tango. | Credit: David Bazemore

State Street Ballet’s spring season of Sleeping Beauty at the Granada and Modern Masters at the New Vic was cut short by the same public health precautions that stopped every other performing arts event back in March. Showing the agility of an organization steeped in responsiveness, SSB became the first company in Santa Barbara to pivot to the web when they presented a studio version of Sleeping Beauty over Facebook Live on Friday, March 13 while many of us were shopping for toilet paper.

Since then, their approach to presenting dance online has evolved in an exciting direction. On Wednesday, June 24, at 5 p.m., State Street Ballet will present an innovative webcast of their 2019 production of An American Tango. This interactive online event is part of a series that will include The Jungle Book (July 22), Common Ground (August 19), and Chaplin (September 16). The technology that sets these shows apart from other web-based streaming events comes from Cya Live. Cya (pronounced “see-ya”) has made its name through partnerships with Hollywood studios such as Paramount Pictures that add live audience interaction in the form of both video and text chat to screenings of popular films. At the same time that they are watching something they love, participants can see, be seen by, and chat with online hosts who moderate the proceedings.

For An American Tango, the “watch-along” hosts will be lead dancer Leila Drake Fossek and choreographer William Soleau. This evening-length biography ballet tells the story of real-life ballroom dance sensations Frank and Yolanda Veloz. The original production at the Granada featured a large cast performing a spectacular range of social dances to American music of the 1920s through the 1940s.

The work represents State Street Ballet and Soleau at their best, pulling together history, romance, popular culture, and dazzling costumes and setting it all on a great ensemble of young dancers. Actor Joseph Fuqua plays Augie, the streetwise narrator who keeps everyone clued into the story. Having Drake and Soleau available to answer questions and share memories in real-time should add immensely to what is already a rich and varied work of art. To register for the event, see cya.live, and for more information about the series, go to statestreetballet.com.


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