It’s been five years since Santa Barbara native Darion Smith last visited town with his New York-based dance company, Janusphere. Back in 2008, their repertory consisted of neoclassical works featuring pointe shoes and traditional partnering. But things have changed since then. “I don’t think I can say we’re doing neoclassical work any more,” Smith said in a recent phone interview. “I’m really interested in trying new things.”
From the sound of it, that interest has carried Smith in the direction of increasingly athletic work with strong visual impact. This Friday, October 18, and Saturday, October 19, the six-member company presents three West Coast premieres at Center Stage Theater: “KinderPlatz,” “Core,” and “A Dancer’s Life.” In keeping with the theme of shifting directions for the company, Smith has titled the show Janusphere-Evolves.
Among the most obvious differences between this program and that of five years ago will be the absence of pointe shoes, which Smith explained that despite their aesthetic appeal are both expensive and physically limiting. The company is now working with more complex stage props, including a dome-shaped jungle gym on and through which the dancers move in “KinderPlatz.” Smith has also begun collaborating with visual artist and filmmaker Aleksandar Cosic, whose video is featured in this work.
Though Smith still prefers performers with strong classical ballet training, he says it’s a willingness to take risks and try new approaches that characterizes his current company. “For people who mostly do the classical form, this work is a challenge,” he said.
Though Smith will bring just six dancers from New York, three area artists will join the company for “A Dancer’s Life,” the work Smith says is the most avant-garde on the program. The piece incorporates spoken text and voice-manipulating technology, and takes the journey of a dancer as a metaphor for the larger human experience.
For Smith, who didn’t discover dance until he was in college, the idea of reinventing oneself through the arts has powerful personal resonance. Rather than simply presenting this work, he says, he hopes to initiate a dialogue with the audience.