State Street Ballet celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, not by focusing attention solely on itself, even though it has earned the right to do so. Instead it’s sharing the wealth, and inviting two other companies to share Saturday evening’s program at the Granada, to intermingle and produce one complete work. A symbiosis, if you will. With “Common Ground,” State Street Ballet will be joined by Detroit’s Eisenhower Dance and Santa Barbara Dance Theatre. All three companies will be performing, using Max Richter’s modernist remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
Just as Mr. Richter put Vivaldi’s four very distinct seasons into a bag and shook it up, “Common Ground” takes the members of all three companies and sees what happens when they dance together. The man behind this mission of mixology is Mexico City-born and Montreal-based Edgar Zendejas, artistic director of ezdanza and award-winning choreographer since debuting in 2001 after years as a ballet dancer.
Mr. Zendejas did not really know classical music until he moved out of Mexico City, and Vivaldi became one of his favorites.
Another thing he wasn’t used to: four seasons. “It’s a bit like California: you don’t really experience the seasons. But when I moved to Chicago first and then to Montreal, I was amazed at first. The snow, the changing colors, all that beauty. But then, living in Montreal in summer, sometimes we are down. It doesn’t matter, the weather changes, it’s what we have inside.”
And that’s what got him to link to Vivaldi’s Four Seasons. It’s a piece, he says, that “moved me inside,” stirring up memories from all parts of his life.
Before undertaking “Inner Seasons,” Mr. Zendejas was directing a show in Montreal featuring a cirque company — the city being an epicenter of modern circus — and “the experience was so interesting and fulfilling that I wanted to apply it to a dance company. So when Rodney (Gustafson, State Street Ballet’s artistic director) proposed the three companies to me I thought it was a good opportunity.”
Choreography is one thing, he says, something he does instinctually. But creating the show, the story, the entire experience — that’s the new, cool stuff.
The State Street Ballet dancers bring their en-point skills to the mix, but as Mr. Zendejas says, his job is to “make them look even, to blend with each other even though they have different styles . . . I wanted to make it look like they are one big company.” Thinking of the internal emotions that Vivaldi set off in him, Mr. Zendejas turned to the company in rehearsals.
“We did a workshop and the company came out with these amazing conversations, really intimate stuff,” he says. “It was like a therapy session, basically. But I wanted that. I wanted that atmosphere, and not just a Four Seasons about the weather.”
Mr.Zendejas is a choreographer who gives his dancers his movement vocabulary, but only as a starting point. He wants to see what the dancers will bring to it. “That’s why the piece has become so rich,” he says.
It’s very different from the choreographers he grew up with, some of whom taught and instructed from a chair and never moved. One female choreographer, near the end of his dancing career, gave him an improvisation piece, and though it felt weird at first, “I saw how beautiful things came out from it,” he says. “That’s why I decided to start exploring improv.”
Though “Inner Seasons” is a one-night only performance, Mr. Zendejas hopes to take it back to Detroit (Eisenhower Dance’s home base) and Mexico City. It depends, he says, on the response.
“Nowadays to tour shows, they buy the shows with less members,” he laughs. This piece has about 25 dancers.
After Santa Barbara, Mr. Zendejas will be off to work with the company of Franco Dragone, one of the main people behind Cirque du Soleil. The circus bug has bitten Mr. Zendejas, and Mr. Dragone is offering the director a chance to create his own work in China. But for now, Saturday is where it’s at.
“I will dance in my seat watching this,” he says of the one-time performance. “And I will enjoy as much as I can, because I know it’s going to end soon.”
When: 7:30 p.m. Saturday
Where: The Granada Theatre, 1214 State St.
Information: (805) 899-2222, www.granadasb.org