State Street Ballet Presents Women's Work, honoring the legacy of Léni Fé Bland. Featuring the World Premiere of Anne's Window, inspired by the life of Anne Frank
Winner of the 2016 Indy Award for Excellence in Choreography
The Jewish Federation of Greater Santa Barbara would like to thank the State Street Ballet for reaching out to our local Holocaust Survivors, and for letting us be part of this special process – it’s something that we and the survivors will remember for a very long time.
Post by Cecily Stewart, Outreach Coordinator, State Street Ballet & Choreographer of Anne's Window
The story of Anne and her family is timeless; everyone can relate to the feelings of frustration, confusion, fear, joy, love, hope, and community that she expresses. As Ronald Hoffman says when sharing his survival story, "We all have our own wars." What struck me in particular as I conceived and created this work, is that though I am drawn to Anne's struggle and experience on a personal level, I am overwhelmed by the parallels of what Anne's family faced and the plight of refugees throughout the world today.
Millions of people like Anne died and were displaced in the Holocaust. I hope that delving into Anne's world through music, theater, and dance, the audience will emerge with an empathy and compassion for the many, many people who are still being persecuted today. If awareness is the key to change, I believe that understanding is the key to empowerment. It is my hope that Anne's story leaves the audience feeling empowered to change the world for the better. In Anne's own words, "How wonderful it is that nobody need wait a single moment before starting to improve the world."
Hearing the stories of the Holocaust from people who actually lived through it was an incredible experience. The opportunity to ask them questions was invaluable and made it much easier to delve into the work of creating a dance and imagining what that time must have been like. As a group, the cast was unified by the shared experience of hearing these stories and it certainly enriched the piece.
Review by Charles Donelan, The Santa Barbara Independent
One good answer to that came with the evening’s final and featured piece, Cecily Stewart’s ballet theater composition Anne’s Window. Anne Frank certainly had enough hope, and her example has lit up the lives of countless people in dozens of languages and thousands of places all over the world. Using eight dancers and an actor, Sofia Ross, who spoke the words of Anne Frank from a small desk at the corner of the stage, and then from amid the action, Stewart conjured the entire range of feelings contained in Frank’s extraordinary small universe. There was the agony of those who were arrested and taken away to the camps, but there was also the heartbreaking beauty of young love and a first kiss. The dancers sat at a long table to represent the tense, anxiety-filled process of eating a meal in self-enforced captivity.
Finally, in a long sequence that illustrated Frank’s determination to hang onto her ideals, no matter what, the choreography represented her inner world as a place of peace, justice, and solidarity. It reminded me of the great dream ballet in the second act of West Side Story, “Somewhere (There’s a Place for Us),” which memorably insisted that even when the outside world is profoundly hostile, somewhere “we’ll find a new way of living, we’ll find a place for forgiving.” “Hold my hand and I’ll take you there, hold my hand and we’re halfway there” the characters sing, and in Anne’s Window, we see this gesture become real as each of the dancers takes the hand of another in turn until the last link turns out to be missing, and a light comes on over Frank’s little desk, now empty. It was a terrifically poignant moment, and a powerful reminder of the way that dance can help access the emotional truths at the heart of our most profound experiences.
For more information on the State Street Ballet, click here.
Photo credit David Bazemore.