May 5, 2006

California Heritage in Dance: The Legend of Josefa

In 1976, Maxine Mahon, CBC Director, inaugurated the California Heritage Project. The Project features California – its history, composers, artists, and its dancers, with ballet stories drawn from historical narratives of San Diego and California.

This year’s performance of “The Legend of Josefa” by the California Ballet Company at Chula Vista Bayside Park, May 7, 2006, 2:00pm, will be the first installment of the newly reconstituted California Heritage Project. The outdoor, bayside setting was chosen both because of the aesthetic quality and because of the part that the waterfront played in the city’s history and in this particular story.

The story of Josefa Carrillo is one of the most melodramatic in early California history. Josefa, a citizen of Mexican California, fell in love with Henry Fitch, a dashing American sea captain. Though their romance was forbidden by both Civil and Religious law, they resolved to be together. Even the Governor of California tried to stop the wedding, but the two lovers eloped on Fitch’s ship and were married in South America. Upon returning to San Diego, Fitch was thrown in jail and the Ecclesiastical Council began an investigation regarding the legality of their marriage. Josefa’s father disowned her, as the family had been shamed by the embarrassment caused by the elopement. Though faced with adversity, true love won out.

The California Heritage Project brings California Ballet into direct interaction with new audiences in the South Bay community and gives students in the visual and performing arts an opportunity to work with professionals in their fields. The ultimate goal is to provide greater accessibility to arts experiences by bringing students, teachers, artists, and new audience members together.

The South Bay was targeted for the California Heritage Project because of the cultural diversity of its population and the focus placed on the arts by the Sweetwater Union High School District. The strength of CBC’s pro-ject lies in its collaborative community effort to document culturally and historically significant stories of San Diego and artistic contributions of its people.

In addition to the excerpts from Legend of Josefa, the program will include tributes to western pioneer settlers (By Candlelight); the Spanish heritage (Spanish Serenade); and traditional Mexican influences (mariachi, and folkloric dancers).

California Ballet, Chula Vista Office of Cultural Arts, the Sweetwater Unified High School District – Division of Visual and Performing Arts, the Unified Port of San Diego, the County of San Diego, and a host of other South Bay supporters will collaborate to bring this cultural event to South Bay audiences and provide a unique research project and arts opportunity for students from South Bay schools.


The California Ballet Com-pany will expand the Heritage project in August of 2007 into a full weekend of performing and visual arts programs. The activities will be enhanced by a variety of other cultural and educational activities in the weeks leading up to the final performances. California Ballet proposes to develop the pro-ject into an annual event held at Chula Vista Bayside Park, incorporating all aspects of dance and art into an ethnically diverse, multi-art festival for all to enjoy.

The expanded project for 2007 will take place between September 2006 and August 2007, culminating with full-length performances of Legend of Josefa in August 2007. Using Chula Vista’s Bayside Park will help to broaden its use as a cultural venue and thereby increase the cultural opportunities available to the citizens of the South Bay. This unique setting is also expected to attract new audiences who may not be accustomed to taking part in cultural programs held in more formal settings.

Additionally, a strong education component is planned. First, students of the Sweetwater Unified High School District – Department of Visual and Performing Arts – will be incorporated into production roles.

Second, California Ballet artists and instructors will present a number of in-school lecture-performances that address historical and cultural topics. These programs will focus on how the arts can explore and illuminate history, culture, human emotions and changing social norms. The historical narrative of the true-life story will act as an outline for demonstrating national, ethnic, and emotional characterization with dance and movement and create a unique, non-traditional means of reaching students. Aspects of student participation fulfill California State Education Standards.

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