State Street Ballet is celebrating its 25th anniversary this year, and for the occasion the company is opening its 2019-2020 season with something big. It will begin on October 12 at The Granada Theatre with a performance of “American Masters,” a three-part show featuring choreography ranging from neoclassical to avant-garde, set to the music of Leonard Bernstein, Morten Lauridsen, and Aaron Copland. A collaboration between State Street Ballet and the Santa Barbara Choral Society and orchestra, the show will be one of a scale seldom seen according to artistic director and State Street Ballet founder Rodney Gustafson.
“It’s very rare where you see a production with this level of theatricality,” he said.
As evidenced in the show’s name, the production’s three segments are united by the theme of American composers. According to a press release, opening segment “Chichester Psalms” is based on the Bible’s Book of Psalms and features music by Leonard Bernstein, while the second segment’s score is “Lux Aeterna” by contemporary composer Morten Lauridsen. The third section “Appalachian Spring” will be what Mr. Gustafson called the evening’s “featured piece.” With music by Aaron Copland, “Appalachian Spring” tells the story of two very different 19th century families that are united by the wedding of a country boy and a city girl.
As Mr. Gustafson’s company prefers not to buy show rights from other companies, “American Masters” like all of State Street Ballet’s productions is an original creation. Recalling back to State Street Ballet’s beginning in 1994, Mr. Gustafson said the creation of original shows was part of his initial conceit for the company.
“My dream was to start a company with a healthy environment that was artistically rich,” he said.
After a career dancing for the renowned company American Ballet Theatre, Mr. Gustafson moved to Santa Barbara with a “whim and a dream” to bring ballet to the town. State Street Ballet’s first ever performance was held at the black box Center Stage Theater in Paseo Nuevo and consisted of 3 male dancers and 4 female dancers. By contrast, “American Masters” will consist of 20 dancers, 8 male and 12 female, as well as a full orchestra and a choir of 80 singers.
Following opening night, State Street Ballet’s 25th anniversary season will carry on at The Granada with its production of “The Nutcracker” on December 21 and 22 and a brand new production of “Sleeping Beauty,” which will premiere on March 14. According to Mr. Gustafson, the latter will offer a “very different take” on the fairy tale. For audiences who want to see a more “edgy” and contemporary ballet production, the company will again hold its annual showcase of modern choreography “Modern Masters” on May 8 and 9 at the New Vic. Mr. Gustafson told the News-Press that in addition to doing productions every year that are fresh and new, State Street Ballet sets out to cater to the public’s many tastes.
“We try to serve all our constituencies,” he said.
Come October of next year, State Street Ballet will present “Starry Night,” a show based on the life of painter Vincent Van Gogh in association with the opening of the renovated Santa Barbara Museum of Art, which at that time will be hosting an international exhibit of the painter’s work. When not performing in town, State Street Ballet spends a lot of time touring around the world and in May 2021 will travel to Geneva, Switzerland to perform “Chaplin,” a ballet about the life of actor Charlie Chaplin.Tickets for State Street Ballet’s 25th anniversary opening performance of “American Masters” can be purchased online at The Granada Theatre website www.granadasb.org. The show will begin at 7:30 p.m. at The Granada Theatre, located at 1214 State St.