Best of Ballet: New York City Ballet Brings Brilliant Beauty to Santa Barbara

By Oxana Ermolova
Distribution Manager

What little girl does not dream of becoming a ballerina? Of being that beautiful and delicate creature dancing with ethereal ease in the spotlight of sparkling lights? Well, as anyone who has ever taken a ballet class (or seen the film “Black Swan”) surely knows ballet is way more than twirling like a fairy onstage. Years of grueling training go into creating performances of effortless ease and breathtaking beauty, like the one Santa Barbara audiences witnessed when the New York City Ballet MOVES Company performed at the Granada Theater on Oct. 18 and 19.

The New York City Ballet is one of the most famous and prestigious ballet companies in the world. Founded in 1948 under the guidance of choreographer George Balanchine, the company has a very distinct aesthetic of movement that emphasizes speed and precision. The company employs about 90 dancers and is the biggest dance organization in America.

The New York City Ballet MOVES group is a new special outreach project of the company that takes a select group of top-notch dancers and company musicians and sends them on tour to smaller theaters, like the one here in Santa Barbara.

The NYCB visit to Santa Barbara, which was organized by the University of California Santa Barbara Arts & Lectures Series, included two different program sets, each performance offering a unique set of dance pieces. Both evenings demonstrated the dancers’ impeccable ballet techniques while allowing them to explore modern compositions by contemporary choreographers.

“What a great opportunity to see a world-class ballet company in two separate programs with live music here in Santa Barbara,” said UCSB dance department faculty member and ballet teacher Valerie Huston.

? Adding to the excitement, prior to the performance, the company’s ballet teacher guest-taught a ballet class at UCSB. Her lesson gave the university dancers insight into the Balanchine ballet technique that the company uses to train its dancers. The dance majors were then able to observe the product of such training onstage during the performance.

“It was almost magical the way their energy stretched throughout the entire stage, even when there were only one or two dancers on stage at a time,” said second-year dance major Dakota Bailey. “They completely filled up the entire stage, which is what I know a lot of us try to do in class: taking up the space and giving out as much energy as we can, which is difficult especially in such a huge theater.”

The beauty of the ballet also touched non-dancers in the audience. First-year biology major Leslie Benitez, who attended the Oct. 19 program set, was intrigued by the blend of artistry and athleticism demonstrated by the dancers.

“It kind of reminded me of wrestling because you have to be flexible and smooth, but also strong,” Benitez said.

The two performances were exactly what one would expect from a company that attracts premier classical ballet dancers from all over the world. Furthermore, the ages of the dancers in the company range from 19 to over 40. Yet regardless of age, they all looked simply sublime onstage, demonstrating the magical capabilities of a finely tuned human body.
No doubt this performance inspired many of the little girls (and the dance majors) in the audience to pirouette their way to ballet class in hopes of one day becoming that gracefully virtuosic ballerina shining onstage.