Friday, June 22 , 2018, 6:20 am | Overcast 59º

 
 
 
 

Funk Zone Fundraiser Pairs Dancing, Wine to Benefit State Street Ballet Training Program

Evening event at the Wine Collective showcases contemporary and classical duets and solos by members of the Santa Barbara ballet company

State Street Ballet director and founder Rodney Gustafson, center, and ballet students, from left, Megan Buddy, Sydney Huber, Kira Hopkins and Sophia Dodd welcome guests to the Wine Collective in Santa Barbara. The event paired world-class wine and world-class dancing at the State Street Ballet: Funk Zone Style fundraiser in a benefit for the Professional Track Program.
State Street Ballet director and founder Rodney Gustafson, center, and ballet students, from left, Megan Buddy, Sydney Huber, Kira Hopkins and Sophia Dodd welcome guests to the Wine Collective in Santa Barbara. The event paired world-class wine and world-class dancing at the State Street Ballet: Funk Zone Style fundraiser in a benefit for the Professional Track Program. (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

[Click here for a related Noozhawk photo gallery.]

Dancers of the State Street Ballet paired their artistic talents with classical, jazz and Latin music as guests treasured an impressive array of world-class wines at an intimate gathering held Wednesday at the Wine Collective in Santa Barbara’s Funk Zone.

As sunset fell outside, the bursts of springtime wind flowing from the tree-lined patio into the tasting room only served to enhance the laughter and inviting sound of wine glasses clinking together throughout the space.

Guests mingled, sampled fine wines and immersed themselves in an evening of contemporary and classical duets and solos performed by members of the State Street Ballet at the unique fundraiser benefiting the Professional Track Program.

Emcee Teri Jory, owner of Poise Productions and the visionary muse behind the State Street Ballet: Funk Zone, said the “friendraiser” was styled to pair world-class wines with fine wines of the region.

Event sponsors Jory and her husband, Seth Geiger, owner of Smith Geiger, set out to showcase vignettes from State Street Ballet’s repertoire and raise scholarship funds for dancers in the training program.

According to Jory, the program provides world-class training for students who otherwise might not have access to the opportunities.

Dancers accepted into the 32-week course meet five days a week and receive personalized coaching in pas de deux, conditioning, technique, pointe variations, modern and choreography. Students also receive access to a dance counselor to assist in their professional development and have the rare opportunity to train and work alongside professional dancers and choreographers from around the world.

“The program started out three years ago,” Jory said. “We started out with eight dancers and now we have 22, with a big waiting list. And they come from all over the world, but also give our local dancers first opportunity to apply.”

The evening festivities commenced with a champagne welcome reception courtesy of Fess Parker Winery. Waiters gracefully ventured through the dense crowd offering glasses of Brut Rose Festivity 2014 to eager and elated guests.

At the start of each dance performance, winemakers addressed the audience and thoughtfully 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 Paring Chardonnay 2013, which he described as “a rich and racy, yet delicately elegant and graceful wine.”

Moments later, all eyes were on State Street Ballet principal dancer Leila Drake Fossek and partner Thomas Fant, who performed a sensual and tender duet. The piece, Common Ground created by choreographer Edgar Zendejas and set to the music of Max Richter, was deeply inspired by the changing of seasons inside of each of us through life’s experiences.

Noozhawk chatted with Fossek as she left the stage aglow with the pride and warmth of someone who truly loves her craft.

“As a person who is very passionate about dancing, and also loves wine, I can tell you that what I relate to most about both of them is that they bring people together,” she said. “So it’s the connection between the performer and the audience that is what I love most about dancing — connecting with people and giving the moments that will become memories.

“Wine brings people together as family and friends. You share good times together and it’s these connection in each of these things that I love most about them. So blending them together is a perfect fit of 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 classical rendition of “The Dying Swan.”
State Street Ballet dancer Lilit Hogtanian creates the likeness of a graceful swan as she dances a classical rendition of “The Dying Swan.” (Melissa Walker / Noozhawk photo)

After a brief intermission, Lilit Hogtanian performed a solo of the classical ballet The Dying Swan, captivating onlookers as her arms fluttered with grace, beauty and lyricism — every movement a reflection of the purity, etched in sadness, loneliness and the undeniable call of death — as she struggle for one last flight.

“Storm 2014 Pres qu’ile Pinot Noir is both old world and new world,” said Ernst Storm, who pared 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 the dance Stage and Real Life Love, an emotionally charged Latin dance performed and choreographed by Mauricio Vera and Deise Mendonca.

Stage and Real Life Love is a fusion of the carnal and the elegant, delivered to the mind by way of sight and sound. This single vineyard Upper Crust Syrah is the perfect compliment, delivering similar emotions to the mind by way of smell and taste,” he said.

The Professional Track Program offers open auditions year-round. Students ages 18 to 21 are accepted into the program that fosters a bridge for students to transition from dance school into the professional world of ballet, instruction, production and various performing art opportunities.

“Our student dancers attend class five days a week and train at least six hours a day plus rehearsals,” Jory said. “You have to be born to love ballet because it’s a lot of hard work, but well worth the effort.”

State Street Ballet is a nonprofit organization dedicated to producing 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 about State Street Ballet, or call 805.845.1432. Upcoming events include Women’s Work at The New Vic on May 14-15, honoring the legacy of Léni Fé Bland.

Noozhawk iSociety columnist Melissa Walker can be reached at [email protected]. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkSociety, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Become a fan of Noozhawk on Facebook.

Support Noozhawk Today

You are an important ally in our mission to deliver clear, objective, high-quality professional news reporting for Santa Barbara, Goleta and the rest of Santa Barbara County. Join the Hawks Club today to help keep Noozhawk soaring.

We offer four membership levels: $5 a month, $10 a month, $25 a month or $1 a week. Payments can be made through PayPal below, or click here for information on recurring credit-card payments.

Thank you for your vital support.

Become a Noozhawk Supporter

First name
Last name
Enter your email
Select your membership level
×

Payment Information

You are purchasing:

Payment Method

Pay by Credit Card:

Mastercard, Visa, American Express, Discover

Pay with Apple Pay or Google Pay:

Noozhawk partners with Stripe to provide secure invoicing and payments processing.

  • Ask
  • Vote
  • Investigate
  • Answer

Noozhawk Asks: What’s Your Question?

Welcome to Noozhawk Asks, a new feature in which you ask the questions, you help decide what Noozhawk investigates, and you work with us to find the answers.

Here’s how it works: You share your questions with us in the nearby box. In some cases, we may work with you to find the answers. In others, we may ask you to vote on your top choices to help us narrow the scope. And we’ll be regularly asking you for your feedback on a specific issue or topic.

We also expect to work together with the reader who asked the winning questions to find the answer together. Noozhawk’s objective is to come at questions from a place of curiosity and openness, and we believe a transparent collaboration is the key to achieve it.

The results of our investigation will be published here in this Noozhawk Asks section. Once or twice a month, we plan to do a review of what was asked and answered.

Thanks for asking!

Click Here to Get Started >

Reader Comments

Noozhawk is no longer accepting reader comments on our articles. Click here for the announcement. Readers are instead invited to submit letters to the editor by emailing them to [email protected]. Please provide your full name and community, as well as contact information for verification purposes only.

Daily Noozhawk

Subscribe to Noozhawk's A.M. Report, our free e-Bulletin sent out every day at 4:15 a.m. with Noozhawk's top stories, hand-picked by the editors.

Sign Up Now >