This year, Santa Barbara Dance Arts’ annual contemporary dance showcase, Configuration, prominently featured themes of social justice and identity equality. The collection, designed by Director Alana Tillim, featured emotional representations of the journey toward personal and social empowerment. The collaborating artists, who were predominantly female, created a candid, vulnerable view of the female experience and expressed reactions to specific cultural instances of violence and hate. “Troll” (choreographed and performed by Emily Cornejo and Alejandra Cuevas) commented on the damaging effect of anonymous, targeted online hate speech (i.e., trolling); “Stop the Hate” (choreographed by Lauren Serrano, performed by Axis Dance Company) brought attention and gave presence to victims of the Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando.
Despite a provocative look at certain topics, Configuration primarily presented works with a celebratory feel. Pieces such as “Strength” (choreographed by Kyleigh Carlson, performed by Axis Dance Company) and “I am … Sasha Fierce” (choreographed by Janaya Cradle, performed by Axis Dance Company) offered optimistic messages of confidence with a focus on female empowerment. “The Finale,” created by Tillim, was a high-energy Broadway mash-up with performers from Impact Dance Company, Vibe Dance Company, Impulse Dance Company, and Axis Dance Company. An appropriate performance for women’s history month, Configuration’s showcase demonstrated strength and liberation through inspiration and community.