State Street Ballet ‘Dances with the Stars’

“Dancing with the Stars” came to the DoubleTree for a fundraiser, Santa Barbara style, in which State Street Ballet brought a most innovative idea for its glamorous black tie affair. Take regular city folk – Tim “Twinkle Toes” Tremblay, Mayor Marty Blum, Jim McCoy, Jill Levinson, Mary Ellen Tiffany, Leni Fe Bland and more – and team them up with the stars of the State Street Ballet 1 – Sergei Domrachev, Ryan Camou, Alyson Mattoon, Enton Hoxha, Bayaraa Badamsambuu – in a dance competition.

Gerhard Mayer, a native Austrian and champion dancer in the Viennese Waltz competitions (and by day a local architect), came by to give the troops four lessons in advance.

This whole idea was the brainchild of co-chairs Linda Hedgepeth, Gloria Montano and Jill Dexter. The crowd loved it, and came dressed to the nines (I had never seen so many colorful dresses) and eagerly awaited our “competition.”

To demonstrate a quick sample dance lesson to the crowd, Gerhard brought out “students” Rodney Gustafson, the State Street Ballet founder and artistic director, and Nina Terzian (who looked like a fairy princess – absolutely adorable in frosted pink).

Then it was off to the Viennese Waltz competition – with eight couples twirling and whirling. Yours truly spun with the debonair John Christopher of State Street Ballet, but in the Viennese Slalom Speedway, Tremblay and the ballet’s Leila Drake outpaced us in the final circuit. (Tim and I are demanding a rematch for next year. I fully intend to trip him up in the tango!)

The scene stealer for the night was Cuban Raydel Caceres with Patricia Gregory. Petite Patricia is old enough to be Raydel’s grandmother, but in performance they recreated the timeless elegance of Nureyev and Fonteyn. Classic ballet aficionado Raydel added some choreographic enhancements and had Pat well trained and posed (arms folded gracefully across chest, head angle up and slightly turned). And after the “Fair Minded Judges” 2 (Martha Smilgis, Joan Funari, John Romo, Barney Brantingham, Marilyn Gilbert, Larry Crandell) cast their ballot – they did!

The following weekend was State Street Ballet’s “Snow White and the Seven (oversized!) Dwarfs.” Cannot say enough about the production. Story and comedy for the kids, technique and choreography for the adults.

(Final bows to Marina Fliagina for not only the clever choreography, but also the meticulous selection and arrangement of the music.)

Tips of the Hat…

Congrats to Marilyn Gilbert, the musical muse of Montecito who was honored by the Legal Aid foundation at the organization’s first Annual Heroes for Justice Awards Luncheon. Besides her legal savvy, Gilbert started up opera in Santa Barbara and has done benefit performances for Legal Aid – operettas, one acts, etc.

Congrats to Sara Miller McCune, who was honored by State Street Ballet for her many contributions in support of ballet and all the cultural arts in Santa Barbara. She has been a key player to help bring about the new, improved Granada Theatre.

CASA at the Club

Meanwhile, CASA at the Club. What a party, what a riot! For the first time, denim was legally allowed to cross the threshold at the Montecito Country Club, which became a sort of Don the Beachcomber venue.

Fred “The Condor” Benko and Mike “Running for Office” Stoker were the dynamic co-chairs following the recipe concocted the previous years by Diana Starr Langley and Jeff Barry 3: casual surfer dude attire + great 1965 theme music (“Papa Doo Run Run”) + entertainment (Tahitian dancers) + great food (crab cakes and wild tropical drinks) = one helluva hula howdown.

Maria Long, the executive director of CASA, explained the passion and purpose of CASA, which stands for Court Appointed Special Advocates.

The goal of CASA of Santa Barbara County is to prevent abused, neglected and abandoned children from becoming lost in the Juvenile Dependency system and working to find them safe, permanent homes as soon as possible. CASA works carefully to match a highly trained volunteer with a child to work as their personal advocate in the courts to assure the child will have a safe, permanent and nurturing home.

Long was a foster child herself, so her personal experience brings empathy to her relationship with clients and a unique perspective when running the program. 4

Plenty of white pants and flip flops, Hawaiian shirts and shorts all around on the family of supporters, which included literal families such as the Kallman clan, the Siemens family, the Dreir Group and Sneddon family.

Lack Construction, the major corporate sponsor that underwrote the pre-party and the stage for the event, also hosted a table for the evening for District Attorney Christie Stanley, Goleta Councilman Roger Aceves, local media and others. Ralph and Diana MacFarlane, the friendly and familiar face of Countrywide Mortgage, represented her company, which was another major sponsor for an event that raised nearly $200,000 that evening.

1. State Street Ballet may have a homey name, but the dancers are from all over the world – Russia, Cuba, Albania, Mongolia

2. The judges admitted they would take bribes – if the price was right – and I brought no change – dang!

3. Jeff wrote all the great hits of that era, and the crowd sang along with him on his songs when we danced after dinner

4. Maria Long’s parents came for CASA at the Club