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LIFE & TIMES / WENDY MILLER

Making Commitment to County's Culture

August 17, 1995|WENDY MILLER | Wendy Miller is editor of Ventura County Life

Art may have stepped softly into the county, but it has left an indelible footprint. Once a place that was more into two-stepping than toe shoes, Ventura County has over the years become something of a cultural haven. Arts centers commingle comfortably with cowboys and county fairs. The informal, outdoor style of the area has not been a deterrent to culture, rather it has engendered its own hybrid: Here we have outdoor music festivals, symphonies under the stars, dance events at the Laundromat, concerts at the country club.

But all this culture comes with the heavy price, one that arts organizations can not always bear. Symphonies, music festivals and dance companies are very expensive businesses to run. Generally speaking, even organizations that sell lots of tickets still need other funding--in the form of private and public grants--to keep going. And not all events sell out; in California, some art is a very hard sell.

Audiences tend to like Beethoven, Mozart and Bach, but Schoenberg is another matter; a traditional Russian ballet is a pretty sure bet, but an original dance piece will not always fill the hall.

Which makes the Channel Islands Ballet Company's commitment to creating and maintaining a regional company all the more impressive. After all, the group is in an artistically developing region that has neither easy access to funding nor a sophisticated cultural base. Yet its members persevere. It was this determination that attracted free-lance writer Maja Radevich.

"When I was little, my favorite story was 'The Little Engine That Could,' said Radevich. "And hearing about how this ballet company was taking on the responsibility of producing "The Nutcracker" this year, I wanted to find out more about the individuals behind this huge undertaking."

As she got more involved in the story, Radevich said she became more and more impressed with the company's spirit.

"The two words that kept popping up through the interview were discipline and determination," she said. "This little group has plenty of both and I have no doubt they will make it up the hill."

Ballet seems the appropriate topic and the right sort of metaphor for this, our final Ventura County Life section. After today, we will exit stage left and make a graceful return next Thursday in a new role.

Ventura County Weekend will provide our readers with an entertainment guide, listings and information on outdoor activities in their communities. Look for us in the Calendar section starting next week.

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