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Gala Celebrates State Street Ballet, Michael and Anne Towbes as ‘Santa Barbara’s Treasures’

Formal fashion, fine food and wine, and breathtaking ocean views set the stage for an evening of style and grace

Michael and Anne Towbes were the guests of honor last Sunday evening at the “Celebrate Santa Barbara’s Treasures” gala event for the State Street Ballet.

Michael and Anne Towbes were the guests of honor last Sunday evening at the “Celebrate Santa Barbara’s Treasures” gala event for the State Street Ballet.  (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

By Melissa Walker, Noozhawk iSociety Columnist | @NoozhawkSociety |

An elegant evening of style and grace attracted more than 100 guests to “Celebrate Santa Barbara’s Treasures,” a gala event last Sunday evening honoring Anne and Michael Towbes and benefiting the State Street Ballet, at the Coral Casino at the Four Seasons Resort The Biltmore Santa Barbara.

The beautifully printed invitation requested an optional black-tie dress code, yet nearly everyone arrived at the breathtaking seaside location dressed stylishly for the occasion.

Gentlemen wore an array of tuxedos and suits complete with bow ties and fashionable cuff links, while women donned colorful and flowing floor-length formal evening gowns of silk and chiffon styled with capped sleeves, backless or spaghetti straps.

The attire was formal, but the atmosphere was relaxed and festive as guests watched the sunset illuminate over the Pacific Ocean in a shimmer of golden waves while sipping cocktails to the accompaniment of live music by Adam Phillips and Musicians of Santa Barbara, whose tasteful acoustic tunes reinforced an already joyous mood.

As night fell, guests were ushered into the La Pacifica Ball Room for a welcome reception and three-course dinner of lime roasted Pacific halibut, California lamb rack and meatballs or vegetarian dishes with wine graciously donated by Kate and Brooks Firestone of Curtis Winery.

Emcee Jonatha King of King Communications and State Street Ballet Executive Director Rodney Gustafson addressed the audience and thanked the sponsors, event coordinators and guests for attending the celebration.

Gustafson acknowledged the honorees during his speech, Anne and Michael Towbes, as treasures of Santa Barbara and previewed State Street Ballet’s 2011-12 list of performances scheduled at The Granada Theater.

Upcoming performances include a multimedia production of Starry Night in early October and the ever-popular holiday favorite The Nutcracker in mid-December followed by the world premiere of the edgy and magical The Secret Garden in February 2012.

Ongoing collaborations with a variety of community organizations that support the performing arts also were noted by Gustafson, including an anniversary performance with the Santa Barbara Symphony and Carmina Burana with the Santa Barbara Choral Society.

“State Street Ballet has developed a center for dance,” said Gustafson. “And thank you to Michael and Anne Towbes for allowing us to create the Gail Towbes Center for Dance.”

Since 2008, the 10,400-square-foot, state-of-the-art studio at 2285 Las Positas Road has functioned as a locale for performing arts events and home for more than 500 dance students.

“The center means a lot to me because ballet needs a home and a place to create the work,” Gustafson said. “We need big space and just the right type of floors, and in a town like Santa Barbara space is difficult to find. So we are really fortunate, and I’d love to see the legacy of the Towbeses live on through the building.”

Next, Gustafson invited the honorees onstage for a few words, and after a round of applause Michael Towbes thanked everyone in the room for supporting State Street Ballet and shared the impact that performing arts has had on him and his wife.

“Anne and I love the performing arts, but in all honesty the most beautiful form is the ballet,” Towbes said. “It has something no other form of performing arts has and a very special place in my heart and Anne’s. I think we are so fortunate in Santa Barbara to have Rodney, and the State Street Ballet continues to thrive.”

Anne Towbes thanked the ballet for “16 years of giving us liquid grace” and recited a few lines from a variation on a theme by a D.H. Lawrence sonnet, Baby Running Barefoot, by David Ira Rottenberg from Soldiers of Beauty:

When the white feet of dancers beat across the stage
the sound is like the wings of birds at dawn, fluttering,
and when the feathery light bodies rise en pointe, spinning
like the wind across a lake, the sight is romance, uttering.

Various forms of live entertainment delighted guests throughout the evening, including soundscapes by Bent Myggen, whose wonderful fusion of classical, jazz and R&B encouraged guests to dance between dinner courses.

Pianist Catherine Miller Popovic accompanied mezzo-soprano Renée Rapier from the Los Angeles Opera who sang the arias “Habanera” and “Seguidilla” from Carmen.

The room sizzled when Rapier sauntered gracefully between tables during the performance as her deep and infectious voice seduced the crowd.

Special dance pieces choreographed by William Soleau for State Street Ballet dancers showcased graceful movements that delighted the crowd of spectators inside the intimate ballroom setting with costumes by Anaya Cullen and Milly Colahan.

Later, live auctioneer Andrew Firestone’s playful persona roused the audience into bidding high numbers on specialty items, including two tickets to Dancing with the Stars live in Hollywood, an Alhambra necklace from Van Cleef & Arpels and a private catered dinner for 20 people with “The French Chef” and performances by concert pianist Brigitte and State Street Ballet.

Guests were also encouraged to help supply State Street Ballet dancers with point shoes for the season since these delicate and handmade shoes used to train and perform last only about a week before needing to be replaced — a costly endeavor for the company.

Founded in 1994 as a nonprofit organization, State Street Ballet is a fully professional dance company and over the years has received local and national acclaim for original work with a unique and innovative approach to classical dance production.

The dance troupe, which is also a resident company for Arts Ed at the Granada Presents, will be participating in The Yellow Bus Series that introduces local students to various world-class performing arts productions at the Granada Theatre and the State Street Ballet Summer Intensive.

“I don’t think that my support of State Street Ballet is for either altruism or for philanthropy; it’s pure selfishness,” Michael Towbes said. “I love State Street Ballet, and between the two of us we want to do everything we can to keep it healthy and thriving in Santa Barbara.”

The State Street Ballet offers special thanks to the following supporters:

» Event Producers: Jonatha King and Lance Jones of King Communications’ Stellar Event Productions.

» Event Décor: Magi Myggen of Intuit Design.

» Event Underwriters and Event Sponsors: Margo Cohen-Feinberg, Tim Mikel and Pottery Barn.

» Table Sponsors and Table Hosts: Van Cleef & Arpels/Margo Cohen-Fienberg, Montecito Bank & Trust, The Granada Theatre, the Santa Barbara Sailing Center, the Ty Warner Sea Center, Anne and Michael Towbes, Tim Mikel, Wallace Vandever, Alex Nourse, Arlyn Goldsby, Jerry Cohen, Jill Dexter and Roger Thompson.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at .(JavaScript must be enabled to view this email address). Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews, and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.




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