Celebrating Experimentation

New Works, presented by the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance. At Center Stage Theater, Friday, January 27.

Our tight-knit dance community exhibited bravery, daring, creativity, and prowess in this year’s New Works showcase. Nine pieces by as many chorographers were selected from a group of 20 aspirants, and variety was the order of the evening. The pieces ranged from a languid exploration of poetry with a Victorian mood by captivating dancer J’aime Morrison, to Misa Kelly’s primal dreams, and Valerie Huston’s lively juxtapositions of ballerinas at crescendo.

The dancers in Misa Kelly’s “Twang” roared, and mimed elephants and monkeys while alternating acrobatic dance and tumbling to a cathartic soundtrack — with moments of humor tossed in. Vanessa Kent provided the costumes in primary colors that clothed Kelly’s primitive motifs.

In Marcos Duran’s “Fix,” four dancers switched partners, transformed, and traded interactions in still moments and flashes of darkness. The simple sound score was haunting, but the piece as a whole moved too slowly and ended too abruptly.

In “Resuscitate” the lights came up on Emily Proctor to reveal her bound with rope and held by a masked and caped man from the back of the stage. As she writhed and danced she toyed with the leash, indicating interplay between bondage and freedom.

Next was Nancy Colahan’s “Mini-Circular #2,” in which a group of UCSB sophomores costumed in blue jeans opened and closed formation in circular, kaleidoscopic patterns. Waves of blue sparkled in the light of the stage. Colahan plans to develop this piece further with these dancers, and if the first segment is any indication, it will be remarkable.

“Oh How They Fall …” was a delight. The combination of accomplished dancer Cybil Gilbertson in pink tulle and Robin Bisio’s daring choreography was heady, and the immediacy of the live musical accompaniment by James Connolly and Laura Hackstein produced one of the evening’s most stunning new works. At the end of the evening Santa Barbara County Arts Commissioner Patrick Davis was lauded for his quarter-century of support of the arts in general, and dance in particular. Davis is the first non-dancer ever to win the Dance Alliance’s “Martha,” or lifetime achievement award. Davis was also recognized that evening by the City of Santa Barbara, California Arts Council, and the United States Congress via Lois Capps. The applause and camaraderie was a fitting end to an evening celebrating our most explosive art form.

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