“Ballet isn’t always tutus and fairytales,” says Kathleen Noblin, founder and executive director of Ventura County Ballet Company, and the founder and owner of Ballet Academy Ventura. Audiences will be able to see that firsthand at VCBC’s special fundraising event on April 22 at NAMBA Performing Arts Space in Ventura.
The program will be decidedly different than the usual fare, with contemporary and innovative pieces designed to highlight the skill and beauty of the dancers. There will be a mix of professional dancers, including Ryan Camou and Leila Drake, who perform with the State Street Ballet in Santa Barbara, and pre-professionals from Ballet Academy Ventura.
One of the dances is “Malambo” from Estancia Suite by Argentine composer Alberto Ginastera. A high-energy character piece fueled by a passionate Latin beat, it features gauchos and flamenco dancers. Traditionally male, the gauchos are played by female dancers except for the lead gaucho, played by Ryan Camou. Local pianist and composer Rachel Flowers performed live for one of VCBC’s previous performances of “Malambo,” and it is the recording of that performance that will be played at the event. “The music is very strong and powerful,” says choreographer Marina Fliagina, associate artistic director. Noblin says Flowers’ performance is thrilling, even recorded, because you can hear the passion in her playing. Flowers, who is blind, “was very excited because she could feel the vibrations of the dancers,” adds Noblin.
“Convergence: Seduction and Silence,” a piece written by composer Miguel del Aguila and choreographed by Brett Weidlich, is a melding of dance and art. Work by local fine artist Vonder Gray is projected onto the dancers, who are dressed in white unitards. “The eight dancers, including Camou and Drake, who dance the pas de deux, become the palette,” explains Noblin. It is an emotional piece that del Aguila wrote about the death of his brother. Noblin adds, “We chose art to fit the music: bright art to go with sounds of hope, dark colors to go with dark moods.” “It’s magical,” says Fliagina. “The dancers are part of the art.” Fliagina got to know Gray and her work because they are neighbors at the Working Artist Ventura (WAV) community downtown. Fliagina loves that the event features local dancers, artists, musicians and composers. She says, “We are featuring very high-level local artists,” then adds with a laugh, “We are producing local organic art.”
Drake and Camou will also perform a pas de deux in “American Beauty Rose,” set to the classic song performed by Frank Sinatra. “I’ve Got a Crush on You” by George Gershwin is a group piece featuring VCBC’s pre-professional dancers. Both pieces are “fun, high energy and cheerful,” says Fliagina.
From the contemporary to the traditional, the edgy to the upbeat, and the dark to the bright, the pieces are all meant to show the community what VCBC has to offer. “The Ventura County Ballet Company is a vital part of the arts community,” notes Noblin. The event also gives audiences the chance to see dance of a very high caliber up close. Noblin believes that seeing dance performed in an intimate showcase allows audiences to become more involved. They see how ballet is done, how technically difficult and beautiful it is. That’s often all it takes for many to be transformed by the power of dance, and become lifelong fans.
The Ventura County Ballet Company’s fundraising performances will be Saturday, April 22, at 4 and 6:30 p.m. at NAMBA Performing Arts Space, 47 S. Oak St., Ventura. For more information, call 323-6620 or visit facebook.com/VenturaCountyBallet.