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State Street Ballet dancers combined their artistic talents with classical, jazz and Latin music as guests cherished an impressive array of world-class wines in an intimate gathering held Wednesday at the Wine Collective in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone .
As the sunset fell outside, the gusts of spring wind flowing from the tree-lined patio into the tasting room only served to heighten the laughter and the inviting sound of wine glasses that clashed all over the space.
Guests mingled, tasted fine wines, and immersed themselves in an evening of contemporary and classical duets and solos performed by members of the State Street Ballet during the one-time fundraiser to benefit the Professional Track program.
Host Teri Jory, owner of Poise Productions and the visionary muse behind State Street Ballet: Funk Zone, said the “friendraiser” was designed to pair world-class wines with fine wines from the region.
Event sponsors Jory and her husband Seth Geiger, owner of Smith Geiger, set out to showcase vignettes from the State Street Ballet repertoire and raise scholarships for dancers in the training program.
According to Jory, the program provides world-class training for students who otherwise might not have access to opportunities.
Dancers accepted into the 32-week course meet five days a week and receive personalized coaching in pas de deux, conditioning, technique, point variations, modern and choreography. Students also have access to a dance advisor to help them with their professional development and have the rare opportunity to train and work alongside professional dancers and choreographers from around the world.
“The program started three years ago,” Jory said. “We started with eight dancers and now we have 22, with a long waiting list. And they come from all over the world, but also give our local dancers the first opportunity to apply. “
The evening’s festivities began with a welcome champagne reception hosted by Fess Parker Winery. The waiters gracefully ventured through the dense crowd offering glasses of Brut Rose Festivity 2014 to the enthusiastic and delighted guests.
At the start of each dance performance, the winemakers addressed the audience and carefully explained the sensory experience and individual emotions behind pairing a specific wine with a versatile repertoire of classical and contemporary dance.
Max Marshak, assistant winemaker for The Paring, held up a glass of 2013 Paring Chardonnay, which he described as “a rich and racy wine, yet delicately elegant and graceful”.
Moments later, all eyes were on State Street Ballet’s principal dancer, Leila Drake Fossek, and her partner Thomas Fant, who performed a sensual and tender duet. The room, Middle ground created by choreographer Edgar Zendejas and set to music by Max Richter, was deeply inspired by the changing seasons within each of us through life experiences.
Noozhawk chatted with Fossek as she left the stage with the pride and warmth of someone who truly enjoys her job.
“As someone who is very passionate about dancing and also loves wine, I can tell you that what concerns me most about them is that they bring people together,” she said. “So it’s the connection between performer and audience that is what I love most about dancing – connecting with people and giving moments that will become memories.
“Wine brings people together with family and friends. You share good times together and it’s those connections in each of those things that I love most about them. So mixing them together is a perfect fit for ancient art forms – the universal language of dance, and wine itself is a blend of arts and cultures.
State Street Ballet dancer Lilit Hogtanian creates the likeness of a graceful swan as she dances a classic rendition of “The Dying Swan”. (Photo by Melissa Walker / Noozhawk)
After a brief intermission, Lilit Hogtanian performed a classical ballet solo The dying swan, captivating viewers as her arms fluttered with grace, beauty and lyricism – every movement was a reflection of purity, etched in sadness, loneliness and the undeniable call of death – as she struggled for one last flight.
“Storm 2014 Near that Pinot Noir is both the old and the new world,” said Ernst Storm, who peeled the wine with The dying swan. “It’s a more delicate style or pinot noir that can be compared to a dancer – light, transparent and delicate.”
Winemaker Bryan Babcock paired Babcock Upper Crust Syrah 2012 with dancing Real life scene and love, an emotionally charged Latin dance performed and choreographed by Mauricio Vera and Deise Mendonca.
“Real life scene and love is a fusion of the carnal and the elegant, delivered to the mind by sight and sound. This unique Upper Crust Syrah vineyard is the perfect complement, bringing similar emotions to the mind through smell and taste, ”he said.
The Professional Track program offers auditions open all year round. Students aged 18-21 are accepted into the program which enables students to transition from dance school to the professional world of ballet, teaching, production and various art opportunities from the spectacle.
“Our student dancers attend classes five days a week and train at least six hours a day in addition to rehearsals,” Jory said. “You have to be born to love ballet because it’s a lot of hard work, but it’s worth it. “
State Street Ballet is a non-profit organization dedicated to the production of original works that combine classical ballet with updated cutting-edge choreography, inspiring and introducing people of all ages to ballet.
Click here for more information on State Street Ballet, or call 805.845.1432. Upcoming events include women’s work at the New Vic on May 14-15, honoring Léni Fé Bland’s legacy.
– Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a Noozhawk fan on Facebook.