Audiences were treated to a lovely display of nouveau classical dance when American Dance & Music presented the program Turkish by Matisse and Other Delights at the New Vic Theatre at the end of May. This was the AD&M Performance Group’s (formerly Ballet Santa Barbara) first performance in more than five years. They presented works created by guest choreographers Nathan Cottam and Mari Sandoval and AD&M Artistic Director Carrie Diamond. The evening began with the world premiere of “Pastorale,” a work set to Beethoven’s Sonata, Op. 28, which was played live on piano by AD&M’s Music Director, Eric Valinsky. The four-movement contemporary piece, choreographed by Diamond, bookended the evening, with two movements at the beginning and two as the show’s finale. The colorful costumes and lighting were perfect additions to the dancers amazing strength and grace as they flowed, twisted, and turned in a layered blend of movements. “Movement III,” a duet between Juliana Bertelsen and Melody Collins, was perhaps the most crowd-pleasing of “Pastorale.” The women tugged, pushed, and played with the intention of stealing the other’s spotlight. Both dancers clearly seemed to be enjoying themselves as they teased one another like quarrelling sisters. One of the highlights of the performance was guest choreographer Cottam’s “Elements of Permutation.” As the lights went up, four dancers dressed in primary-color jumpsuits were seated in a row upstage like birds on a telephone wire. The piece consisted of four humorous and playful yet technically challenging duets and a final quartet. Of note was a breathtaking duet between Melody Collins and Sally Schuiling moving at a rapid speed with arms continually entwined. Of all the dances performed throughout the evening, “Elements of Permutation” was the most entertaining.
AD&M’s featured heirloom piece, “Turkish by Matisse,” is an original work choreographed by Sandoval and was definitely the climax of the show. The introspective piece was richly textured and emotionally gripping, capturing the spirit of the Odalisque paintings by Henri Matisse, which were the inspiration behind the work. The piece offers a juxtaposition of classical ballet dance and Turkish cultural influences seen in the work’s costume and props. Nikki Pfeiffer danced exquisitely with a fan and tapestry portraying a woman tormented by the pressure to feel beautiful. The work was choreographed and danced by Sandoval in 1976. As Sandoval’s student, Diamond danced the piece, once in high school and again 30 years later in 2014. It was a special experience to be able to see the work in its third generation in the presence of all three performers.
Turkish by Matisse and Other Delights was overall an enjoyable exhibit of the three choreographers’ inspired works. As AD&M approaches its 10-year anniversary, the company continues to grow and strive for greater cultural significance by introducing music and dance to all ages in Santa Barbara.