I hadn’t been out to see the State Street Ballet of Santa Barbara in a few years, so Saturday’s performance of “Cinderella” sounded like a pleasant way to spend an afternoon. I usually get quite a kick out of collaborations between professional ballet companies and students, and this co-production with the Valley Performing Arts Council’s Fresno Ballet Theatre was no exception. It’s great for up-and-coming dancers to be able to share the stage with people who are actually getting paid to dance for a living. I’m sure the memories created amongst the Fresno-area student dancers will linger for decades to come.
It was a very nice overall production, full of color and vitality. Here are five small but telling details that I loved about the show:
The wicked stepsisters, portrayed by the effusive pair of Sergei Domrachev and John Christopher Piel in drag with a torrent of expertly bad ballet moves, were of course the comic highlight. My favorite moment: when the sisters fell on their backs and laid there struggling like overturned turtles.
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The padded posteriors of the student-dancer mice (Samantha Salazar, Devyn Sasai, Payton Smith and Kayden Visser) cracked me up. The costumes (by Christina Giannini) were a highlight of the production, including the stepsisters’ second-act semi-hoop skirts, which stuck out so rigidly they could have been shelves for displaying your tchotchkes and collectibles. (That’s an exceedingly obscure “Full Monty” reference, for those keeping track.)
The owls. Everything about the owls. These student dancers (Teigan Davis, Abigail Graves, Abigail Jobe, Ava Patton, Linda Salas, Devyn Sasai, Samantha Salazar, Payton Smith, Katherine Tikkanen, Nicole Vasquez, Kayden Visser and Jordan Wheaton) were very well prepared and impeccably in sync with themselves and the music. I loved their confidence and bearing, and they meshed with the State Street professionals seamlessly.
The countdown to midnight. The tick-tock of the music and Rodney Gustafson’s choreography made this a strong, dramatic moment. (And, yes, the owls had a part in it.)
Cinderella (beautifully danced by Deise Mendonca) carried the show with humor and grace. My other favorite was Ryan Camou, whose expression when he got wedged dancing between the two stepsisters was priceless. Sometimes in ballet you end up having to run with the turtles. Overall, a fun and sweet afternoon.