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An Introduction to State Street Ballet

by Andre Yew

May 2005

An arcade of shops in downtown Santa Barbara, California not some four blocks from the Pacific Ocean is an unlikely place to find one of the few professional ballet companies in Southern California. Yet for over 10 years, State Street Ballet has grown and thrived, exemplifying the best of what a regional company does: presenting versatile, well-trained dancers recruited from all over the world in classic and new works to audiences of smaller communities that don't have ready access to the major companies.

Nor do these dancers have to apologize for dancing regionally, as they can readily match the major companies in technique, and exceed them in the spirit, intensity, and commitment of their dancing. Their recent production of "Giselle" proved this handily: while their production values reflected the typically low budget of a regional company, the dancing of the company easily stands up in comparison to any of the other three different productions of "Giselle" I had seen that season, and produced an Act II that was singular amongst the four productions. Introspective, intense, and dark, Silvia Rotaru's Giselle in Wili form seemed to concentrate all of the stage space into her body, like a super-dense celestial object paradoxically creating astronomical radiance by bending light and space unto itself. Is it any wonder that Albrecht must follow her?

Founded in 1994 by its artistic director, Rodney Gustafson, to be a small, contemporary ballet company, SSB performs in Santa Barbara, and tours the western United States. In the last few years, the company has also toured China and Taiwan, presenting Robert Sund's Beauty and the Beast, created on SSB. In the coming year, the company will tour the eastern US for the first time as well.

The company's repertoire burgeons with works unique to the company. Robert Sund's "Beauty and the Beast", "Taming of the Shrew", and "Alice in Wonderland" were made on the company. William Soleau's "Sonnets of Love and Death", "Seasons", and "Airwaves" are three recent ballets made on the company. Gustafson contributes his own pieces like his "Cinderella" and "Romeo and Juliet", as well as restagings of classic works like this past season's "Giselle". Other choreographers include Jimmy Gamonet, whose "Estancia" the company premiered in a weeklong Tango and Malambo festival last year.

Over the next few installments of articles, we'll find out more about the company through the eyes and words of its artistic staff, and former and current dancers, so be sure to check back to find out more about State Street Ballet.

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