Paul Wellman

On the Verge, presented by Santa Barbara Dance Alliance. At Marjorie Luke Theatre, Saturday, May 26.

Verging on Greatness

Although it boasted fewer pieces than in recent years, the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance’s 2007 On the Verge Teen Choreographers’ Showcase made up for its brevity in ingenuity, variety, and talent.

The acts were, either inadvertently or purposefully, segregated with regard to style. The first act was dedicated to ballet, jazz, and modern dance, while the second act was nearly all hip-hop and flamenco. This division may be attributed to the removal of the Marley floor during intermission, but it also provided an effective flow for the show.

Modern dance has such potential for greatness when the choreographers’ bodies and minds are still developing. One standout solo was “Torn,” choreographed and danced by Tenaya Cowsill. Her movements were strong-balletic yet subtly animalistic-and her extension beautiful. However, judging by her face, she was completely unaffected by her own creation, which held the audience captivated.

Claudia Oro±a’s solo piece, “meme-gothique,” had a disturbing essence of tension that began with her very first movement. She sat facing upstage, and her leg struggled its way out from beneath the deep red folds of her skirt, seemingly of its own accord. Her piece hinted at Satanism and demonic possession, and her facial expressions showed the struggle of keeping her body from moving without her consent. Oro±a’s costume, which she made by hand, was crucial to the feel of her piece.

There were two hip-hop pieces in On the Verge this year, and it became apparent that they needed to be connected in order to represent night and day. Taylor Fisher’s “HOT” was dark, commanding, and gritty, while Robin Zelko’s “One Voice” was bright, unpretentious, and fun-loving. Both pieces were full of energy, executed sharply, and demonstrated innovative choreography-a feat not easy to achieve in the world of hip-hop.

Santa Barbara has a rich tradition of flamenco, so it was refreshing to see more than just one piece representing the tradition. Amanda Cuevas and Sabrina Ibarra co-choreographed a duet that was appealing due to the dynamism of two female dancers. It resembled, at times, two best friends enjoying each other’s company, while at other points it appeared to be an evenly matched competition. In both cases, it was entertaining. Daniela Zerme±o choreographed two pieces this year: a solo for herself, and a solo for Celine Cardona. The latter was adorable, to say the least.

Every year, On The Verge proves to Santa Barbara that teen choreographers and dancers are not to be underestimated.

Laura Zelko is a student at San Marcos High School, where she writes for the school newspaper. As a teen writer, she is not to be underestimated.

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