CriticalDance Forum

State Street Ballet
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Author:  Andre Yew [ Thu Aug 15, 2002 6:57 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet


You're welcome. I'll be taking class tonight at SSB's school, and I'll ask around to see if anyone knows where they'll be performing at Lake Arrowhead.


edit: I asked around last night, but no one knew where in Lake Arrowhead they would be performing. They suggested what Basheva did, which is to call the office, and find out. Sorry I couldn't be of more help.

<small>[ 08-16-2002, 11:01: Message edited by: Andre Yew ]</small>

Author:  Jeff [ Fri Aug 16, 2002 4:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

Andre, thank you for your trouble. But, doesn’t it seem a little funny that people in the school didn’t know where the associated company is performing?

OK, a few minutes using my office pc’s fast internet connection dug this up:

Saturday Night in the Meadow featuring the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara performing big band swing ballet. Program starts 6:30 p.m. Santa's Village meadow. Adults $10, children under 16 free. Table reservations for eight available. For more information call the Lake Arrowhead Foundation for Performing Arts (909) 337-5338.

Lake Arrowhead Events

Lake Arrowhead Foundation for the Creative and Performing Arts

I'm not sure that I would call "Ballroom" "Big Band Swing" ballet though it uses some of the music. Its choreography is, I think, more than mere homage to the big band idiom; and "B.A.N.D." is way more sophisticated even for that. Irregardless, I'm all for calling it whatever would bring people in.

They say that its festival seating. Bring lawnchairs, picnic dinner, blankets. I love these outdoor venues though I can’t say I know how the performers feel about the floors which I suspect were never designed for dance. I saw State Street Ballet at Redlands Bowl a while back and really enjoyed that.

Am I making progress with my UBB, Salzberg?

Author:  Jeff [ Mon Aug 26, 2002 9:46 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

State Street Ballet at Lake Arrowhead
“Ballroom: A Salute to the Swing Era”
August 24, 2002

I’m not sure that the subtitle “A Salute to the Swing Era” fairly represents the four works performed. Only “Five by Gershwin” and perhaps “Mi Corazon” seemed to evoke in any literal manner the era of Glenn Miller, the Dorseys, evenings by the “wireless,” and the Cotton Club. Doubtless, works like Tharp’s “Sinatra Suite” or Taylor’s recent, prophetic “Black Tuesday” (memorably toured by ABT last year) come closer to homage.

I’m not sure how “Heartland” counts as a salute to swing. And, “B.A.N.D.” takes the big band sound only as a point of departure. Yet, it is indeed an evening of memory ballet—but seen through a long lens—an imaginary trip down a lane of make believe memories.

The evening began with “Five by Gershwin” choreographed by William Soleau to familiar songs sung by Nat King Cole, Frank Sinatra, Helen Merrill, Linda Ronstadt, and Ernestine Anderson. Dressed in lumberous black tuxedos the men partnered the women in Cyd Charisse ball gowns and pointe shoes. Soleau emphasized duets that seemed familiar. It was as if suddenly all competition ballroom dancing were adagio in mood.

“They Can’t Take That Away From Me” danced by Samuel Beckman with Jennifer Batbouta, Alyson Mattoon, and Kathryn Petack, reminded me the most of Balanchine’s own choreography to Gershwin, “Who Cares,” particularly in what Arlene Croce pointed out of its “Apollo-like cast” of one boy and three girls. Beckman dances with 3 girls and does seem to take something from each girl, but they are all smiles without the pallid, ballet intensity in the Balanchine.

I’ve seen “B.A.N.D.” choreographed by Robert Sund to music by Duke Ellington, the Andrews Sisters, Nat King Cole, and Bing Crosby, several times by now and am more than ever fascinated by its choreography, a short suite of dances for 3 male dancers in black and red and 9 female dancers in slinky red dresses and pointe shoes. In the opening Duke Ellington number, 3 pairs of male and female dancers alternate approaching the front of the stage with an icy chorus of female dancers.

In Palm Springs I thought of European boulevardiers as chic and cool as the jazz. I was wrong. They’re a dream of night prowlers brought to the stage. The girls especially are frightening. They press the choreography’s planes towards the foreground and the stage becomes a catwalk. In a strange dream logic, they stare, they pose on pointe, they retreat -- only to repeat the sequence. I thought I saw a Fauvist impression before; now I think of what Ernst Ludwig Kirchner did with the streets of Berlin and Dresden.

After the intermission, Jennifer Batbouta and Alberto Colon danced “Mi Corazon” by AD Rodney Gustafson to music by Peter Felder. Like the Soleau, this pas de deux stuck to what seemed like a familiar dance idiom. Also, it seemed like an excerpt though it wasn’t credited as such.

The evening finished with “Heartland” by Gustafson to a bluegrass compilation. This is my second viewing with a slightly different cast (the golden Olga Tschekachova replaced by a very spunky girl-next-door, Silver Barkes, as “Melanie"). There is a very loose story about two girls, “Spitfire” danced by Kathryn Petak” and “Melanie” danced by Barkes, social rivals in what appears to be a rural town (judging by Christina Giannini’s costuming of farmer’s daughter’s dresses for the girls and jeans and broadcloth for the boys).

On second viewing, “Heartland” is both more and less complex than at first. Its most enduring sequence continues to the all-girls dance whose simple steps and symmetries repeats the purity of the luminous gospel song sung a capella by Allison Krauss. However, in another dance—to a zydeco instrumental—Spitfire steals away two boys from Melanie who watches on, fuming almost so you can smell the smoke. Kathryn Petak as Spitfire, the Bad Girl, has so much fun dancing to the zydeco that it’s almost like the Louisiana intrusion takes on the exoticism and sensuality that character variations would have had in a Petipa ballet.

Yet, “Heartland” worries me just a little. Like the evening’s dances in general, it reworks the past as the same kind of exotic fantasy the Romantic and Classical Period choreographers had for the mid-East, Asia, and even the Scottish highlands. Exoticism is equated to difference often crossed upon the familiar axes of class and gender and embodied by erotic potential. Spitfire is clearly marked off from the others not only by her costuming (shortest skirt of the girls) but also by erotic and class difference as the zydeco sequence suggests; but it is also almost not an innocent difference. Perhaps its more like an S.E. Hinton universe with a Rounder Records soundtrack.

Despite what I can easily imagine as less than ideal performing conditions, the entire company looked good. Full credit must be given to all the dancers who did not look the least intimidated by the coolness as the sun set to night. Jennifer Batbouta, Alyson Mattoon, and Kathryn Petak were pleasing in the Gershwin piece. Samuel Beckman looked like he should be in the movies. Kathryn Petak and Silver Barkes were especially fun in “Heartland.”

A quick venue note: State Street Ballet appeared at Lake Arrowhead’s “Saturday Night at the Meadows” which is on Route 18 between Sky Forest and Lake Arrowhead. The stage was an elevated affair perched at the top of a gentle slope of a meadow clearing. The floor for an appreciative audience of several hundred was straw and grass, not comfortable without a blanket; but chairs and reserve tables were available.

I look forward to seeing the company again on an indoor stage where they will look to better advantage with a regular dance surface, lighting, and environmental controls (better for me to concentrate without my teeth chattering).

Author:  Basheva [ Tue Aug 27, 2002 4:41 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

Since its inception in 1994, State Street Ballet has received critical acclaim for performances at home in Santa Barbara as well as on tour throughout California, the Western United States, Taiwan, and China. Under the direction of Rodney Gustafson, the company seamlessly melds classical technique with innovative original choreography. The refreshing result is ballet that mesmerizes modern audiences with its powerful drama while uplifting them with its elegance.
Above is the opening remark given at the Company's website (which I posted in on Aug. 15th). It's says the company began in 1994, however, I remember several attempts to start a company in the 1970's (as I mentioned previously) so let's hope that this time the company has a long a successful life.

Thank you very much, Jeff, for another very informative review. I wish the company would come a bit further south.

Here's a page about the dancers:

State Street Ballet - The Dancers

Author:  Jeff [ Mon Oct 28, 2002 1:08 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

Hello, CD friends,

Taking a short break from doing what seems like a gazillion exercises on identifying, inflecting, and correcting modals and other auxiliary verbs … I suppose it’s the English student’s equivalent of all those tendus …

“Ballroom – A Salute to Swing”
State Street Ballet at the Curtis Theater, Brea
Saturday evening 10/26/02

I suppose the important word in the show’s title is “Ballroom.” Whether its broadcloth and denim suitable for a hoe-down or formalwear for a presidential inauguration ball, dancing occurs in ballroom big and small—from Appalachia to the Kennedy Center. State Street Ballet gives us a sense of this.

“Heartland” takes the agrarian approach. Choreography by SSB’s AD, Rodney Gustafson and a musical compilation of folk tunes, mostly bluegrass but also gospel and zydeco, “Heartland” asks us to believe in timeless values ... timeless as in the timelessness of balletic technique's ability to bring out the glamour and fun in any kind of music that aspires to cultural expression.

Girls in farmer’s daughter’s dresses and boys in denim and boots caper, flirt, and simply enjoy dance. Its almost all ballet, though, and Gustafson’s trick of putting ballet choreography and bluegrass music holds up surprisingly well (in this, my 3rd viewing over the past year). Closer observation finds little ballet allusions like the “Spitfire’s Rose Adagio” in the zydeco number (I believe). Silver Barkes plays “Melanie” as a gloriously blonde Ramona. Jennifer Batbouta was “Spitfire” and David Fonnegra, “Ben.”

I never tire of watching Robert Sund’s “B.A.N.D.” set to music by Bing Crosby, Nat King Cole, the Andrews Sisters, and Duke Ellington. This time I notice Merrit Miller’s solo in the opening number—all fire and ice. Alberto Colon does a fine job in his solo but he looks like he’s chewing gum.

“Patsy and Hank” by Robert Sund for Nicole Grand and David Fonnegra to music by Patsy Cline seems like an excerpt. A story is suggested but of what? “Gershwin Pas de Deux” to “The Man I Love” sung by Linda Ronstadt is for Jennifer Batbouta and Alberto Colon.

“Nuevo Tango” choreographed by William Soleau to several pieces by tango master, Astor Piazolla ends the evening. I wasn’t all that impressed when I saw it in Palm Springs last year but now I find more in it. The costumes, not credited tonite, could use some re-thinking. The velvety blue gowns for the women are not flattering and look like they were made by somebody’s mother (I’m sure they’re not but that’s the effect). The men with their smoldering looks, greased hair, and skin tight blue blouses and black slacks look like a parody—perhaps some Stateside stay-at-home's idea of gigolos in Buenos Aires ballrooms and alleys. Whatever.

Despite the way that the choreography’s use of barstools suggests neurotic furniture rearrangement (is there such a thing as “furniture rearrangement disorder”?) rather than the plasticity of dramatic space and time which I suppose was the choreographer’s intent, with a second viewing I see how Soleau has captured a sense of sexual tension subordinated to rituals of almost exhibitionistic intensity. The scariest moment occurs as Jennifer Batbouta dances a dreamlike trance with two men in turn as if she might have become the Novice if Robbins had chosen to work in the tango idiom.

State Street Ballet has just returned from a lengthy tour of the People’s Republic of China. I wonder if they played these works and if so, what people whose cultural points of reference must be different thought of them. And, in what ways they enjoyed these several works.

<small>[ 10-28-2002, 02:32: Message edited by: Jeff ]</small>

Author:  Andre Yew [ Mon Oct 28, 2002 10:45 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet


State Street Ballet has just returned from a lengthy tour of the People’s Republic of China. I wonder if they played these works and if so, what people whose cultural points of reference must be different thought of them. And, in what ways they enjoyed these several works.
SSB just came back from a 2-week tour of China where they performed Beauty and the Beast by Robert Sund:

Beauty and the Beast

The dancers seemed to enjoy the tour, but found most of the audiences reserved, until their last few stops. The explanation given to them was that Chinese audiences needed to contemplate a performance for a while before giving it their full support.

They're currently in negotiations to head back to China next year with more performances, so they must have been well-received.

I'm excited about their opening show in Santa Barbara in less than two weeks, performing Sund's version of Shakespeare's Taming of the Shrew. The piece isn't fully set yet, but the music will be interesting: Stravinsky (The Soldier's Tale, possibly more), Ravel (Bolero for the wedding and honeymoon scenes (!), and more), and some 1950s pop songs (since the story will be set in the 50s).


Author:  Andre Yew [ Wed Nov 13, 2002 10:40 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

State Street Ballet's 2002-2003 season kicked off last weekend with two world-premiere performances of Robert Sund's new ballet, Taming of the Shrew, loosely based on William Shakespeare's eponymous play. Set to music by Ravel, Stravinsky, and some popular music from the 1950s, Sund transports Shakespeare's romantic comedy to the 50s, with characters, costumes, hairstyles, and set designs reflecting caricatures of the time.

Bianca (played by Alyson Mattoon) is the popular, pretty girl who has a string of boys following her around. Louie (David Fonnegra), an amoral person of means, wants to marry her, but her father (Richard Dickinson), who is perplexed and somewhat flustered by his two daughters, insists that her older sister, the spitfire, independent-thinking, take-no-attitude-nor-prisoners Kate (Jennifer Batbouta) must be married first. Louie conspires with his friends to pay Pete (Alberto Colon), a swaggering, drinking playboy who flirts with anything in his path, to marry Kate so that Louie may marry Bianca. Pete, who is hard up on money, agrees readily, and mischief, comedy, and misunderstandings follow.

It seems to me that the ballet is about Kate and Pete's relationship, because they are the only characters to change. Other characters are around to advance the plot. The dancing, clearly based on a ballet vocabulary, embodies Kate and Pete's contentious relationship, and the comedy of the play. There were many acrobatic lifts, with Colon tossing, flipping, and dropping (purposely!) the diminutive Batbouta. Batbouta in turn got to flip, kick, and push around the much larger Colon. The physical comedy worked well, especially since Batbouta is so much improbably smaller than the hulking Colon, but both were drawn as equal characters, and their feelings about each other were well-expressed in their faces. Only Batbouta was on pointe, with the rest of the girls in soft shoes with heels.

There was a fair bit of mime which was well-integrated with the dancing. Especially funny was Leif Peterson's vaguely frustrated, preoccupied priest, whose mime for wedding vows amusingly depicted the seriousness of such a commitment.

The centerpiece of the ballet for me was the very funny wedding/honeymoon scene of the first act, set to Ravel's Bolero. Highlights for me include Robert Sund's imaginative methods for integrating set changes with dancing, as the scene went from wedding to honeymoon, using spoken voice as a sound effect, Leif Petersen's priest who made the audience laugh just by walking out, Batbouta's and Colon's honeymoon bedroom pas de deux with its acrobatic choreography that clearly reflected the two characters's relationship, and its shockingly explicit consummation at the conclusion of Bolero and the scene.

The Act II opening divertissement for Mattoon and the female corps, danced to Peggy Lee's Fever, was musical, and done well as a pure dance piece. The final pas de deux with Batbouta and Colon gently concluded a ballet with very physical choreography.

Samuel Beckman, playing one of Louie's unnamed friends, had jumps infused with lightness and ballon. Colon impressed with his non-stop swagger as Pete, while Batbouta really did embody the shrew. Technically, the company performed well, with dancing that was musical and solid, and characters that were distinct, and well-characterized.

Sund's choice of music was interesting, as it was fragments of Ravel (piano concerto in G, Bolero, and others), and Stravinsky (Soldier's Tale, Octet for Wind Instruments, and others) instead of an integrated score. Each piece was picked to set the mood and character traits of the scene and characters dancing, and worked well.


<small>[ 11-13-2002, 23:46: Message edited by: Andre Yew ]</small>

Author:  Jeff [ Fri Jul 18, 2003 5:05 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

Just noticed this: State Street Ballet will be appearing at the Redlands Bowl in Redlands, California on August 8, 2003.

STATE STREET BALLET OF SANTA BARBARA. “Beauty and the Beast.” One of the most loved fairy tales of all time, this ballet turns the romantic story of Belle and the Beast into a mesmerizing reality. Rodney Gustafson, artistic director.
In case you've never been to the Redlands Bowl, it's a smallish open air venue where they have free performances on summer evenings.

Redlands Bowl 2003 Season

Author:  Andre Yew [ Tue Aug 26, 2003 8:45 pm ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

I just received this season's (2003-2004) information from State Street Ballet:

Seasons: November 8 (8PM), 9 (2PM, a world premiere ballet by William Soleau

Nutcracker: December 13 (2PM, 8PM), 14 (2PM), AD Rodney Gustafson's Hollywood Nutcracker

Tango and Malambo: February 7 (8PM), 8 (2PM), "A celebration of the sensuous and vibrant soul of South America in collaboration with Gisele Ben-Dor". Gisele Ben-Dor is the music director of the Santa Barbara Symphony. Her concert programming has always been sympathetic towards Latin American composers.

Taming of the Shrew: March 13 (6PM), 14 (2PM), "Robert Sund's delightful version of Shakespeare's well-known comedy, back by popular demand after its world premiere last year." This is also a prelude to a gala event for SSB's 10th anniversary. I think the wedding and honeymoon scene alone is worth the price of admission.

To get tickets, call the Lobero Theatre at (805) 963-0761.


Author:  Jeff [ Fri Jun 18, 2004 7:22 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

State Street Ballet will be presenting their "Tango and Malombo" show at the Redlands Bowl on August 17 (free outdoors performance).

State Street Ballet
One of the Bowl’s best-loved dance companies, State Street Ballet will perform “Tango in Malambo” an evening of sultry, rhythmic dance influenced by the passionate music of South America.
For more information click here .

Author:  Andre Yew [ Fri Jun 18, 2004 10:25 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

I highly recommend seeing Tango and Malambo --- it was one of their best programs from this past year. William Soleau's Songs of Love and Death was haunting (and my favorite work of the program), the rarely-heard complete Estancia ballet music from Revueltas is set by Jimmy Gamonet (former Miami City Ballet choreographer)to a neo-Classical style of choreography with an interesting effect at the end, and Soleau offers what appears to be a sequel to his earlier tango piece.


Author:  Azlan [ Fri Aug 27, 2004 9:53 am ]
Post subject:  Re: State Street Ballet

State Street Ballet demonstrates technical mastery

Redlands Daily Facts

REDLANDS Settling an audience down in an outdoor venue such as the Redlands Bowl is always a tricky proposition, especially if an opening piece starts in silence or with quiet intensity as in the case of "Bolero." <a href=,1413,209~32648~2345892,00.html target=_blank>more</a>

Author:  Andre Yew [ Sun May 22, 2005 2:12 am ]
Post subject: 

As hopefully the beginning of a series on regional companies, we're kicking off with State Street Ballet from Santa Barbara, California.

Alyson Mattoon and Chad Bantner in "Ballroom" Photo: David Bazemore

An Introduction to State Street Ballet
Andre Yew

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.

Autumn Eckman Photo: Rose Eichenbaum

William Soleau's "Seasons" Photo: David Bazemore

Yuan-Ming Chang Photo: Rose Eichenbaum

Silvia Rotaru in William Soleau's "Carmen" Photo: Rose Eichenbaum

Author:  Jeff [ Fri Jun 10, 2005 8:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

Andre, thanks so much for your Intro to State Street Ballet. I've been a great enthusiast for this company. Love the pictures, too.

Just noticed that the Company is again scheduled to appear at Redlands Bowl. They will be performing Cinderella on Friday, August 19. If you've never been there, Redlands Bowl is a small outdoors theater and there is no charge. Basically, you just drive up, walk in, and plop down wherever there is an empty spot.

For more info, click here.

Author:  Andre Yew [ Tue Aug 08, 2006 9:56 pm ]
Post subject: 

For this year's Summerdance modern dance festival in Santa Barbara, State Street Ballet brought in choreographer Robert Battle to set a piece on their dancers. Part of Summerdance tradition is to leave a work behind with the community, and SSB was lucky enough to be selected this year for Battle's Rush Hour. It is the finest piece of choreography the company has danced in years, and shows the versatility and commitment so underutilized in its dancers. Freed from their usual diet of ballet steps wrapped in cheesy plots and artless crowd-pleasing tricks, the dancers took to Battle's Graham-cum-hip-hop-cum-African-cum-something-not-ballet like fish to water.

Full of whole-body undulations, sharp articulations, and grounded movement, Rush Hour is Battle's interpretation of his feelings coming to New York City for the first time from a sleepy Miami neighborhood. Told by his mother to never look up (because you'll look like an out-of-towner), and to beware of muggings in every moment, it shows his fearful response to the city's almost mechanical hustle and bustle. Dancers alternate between group-like mechanical movements, and individual, almost lyrical solo movements. But not to worry: the group ultimately beats down on the soloists and makes them conform. Its centerpiece is a solo danced by Autumn Eckman (whose last performance with the company sadly was this Summerdance) who seemed to be the personification of the mechanical impersonification of the city made shapes unimaginable in the innocuous, witless ballet-based choreography SSB usually dances: sharp lines crazed with pointy joints undulating from a living, moving center, daring us to disobey. At the end of her solo, she points at us as if holding tensed a bow loaded with the biggest arrow you've ever seen, waiting for the first person to challenge her. "You've got to ask yourself one question: Do I feel lucky? Well, do ya, punk?"

Rush Hour's music was composed by John Mackey, and is available for streaming listening here:

In an interesting twist, the music was composed after the piece was made as Battle had used another piece of music to make the piece. Battle handed Mackey a video who then watched it muted, and composed music to it. The harsh, dissonant music set for percussion and electric string quartet reflects the piece's character, and one could not imagine the movement without the music.

Luckily for audiences here who missed the sole performance at Summerdance, State Street will be performing Rush Hour for their September 16 opening program, a mixed-rep program of American dancemakers, including Agnes de Mille and Margo Sappington. Rush Hour shows the company in a different, but positive light. I can only hope that local audiences will embrace it and give the company a chance to experiment and show them its breadth of dancing. Ultimately, no company can retain good dancers if it doesn't feed them choreography that explores and pushes its dancers' full artistic potential.


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