There’s a discernible shift in undercurrents when Santa Barbara Dance Theater heads downtown. The penetrating technique that has come to define this season’s company dancers remains intact, as do the shrewd collaborations with well-versed and vibrant choreographers. But something in the way the company embraces the Lobero stage — utilizing its technical bones to great effect — seems to illuminate reprisals with accentuated vibrancy while framing each individual choreographic expression with punctuated relevancy.
To see Christopher Pilafian’s “Mystique” on an expansive stage, its essence anchored firmly in place by the towering artwork of Mary Heebner like ancient Greek stelae, was to witness each section breathe with full emotional lungs to staggering results. Flashing a Cheshire Cat grin in the tongue-in-cheek “Chamber Fantasy,” Pilafian followed up with a Victorian-spiked piece teetering humorously around marital expectations.
The two solos on the program, David Maurice’s “Liminal Red” and Nancy Colahan’s restaging of “Cante Flamenco,” had no challenges in filling the breadth of the stage with the electrifying movement dialogue, with Maurice’s slick and confident transitions through various character changes adding layer upon layer of mounting refrain.
The two most captivating pieces of the evening — Andrea Giselle Schermoly’s negotiation with flesh and tissue and unrestrained strength in the wholly captivating “Hers,” and David Maurice’s darkly complex study of the art of running on empty in “Were It Not for Shadows” — underscored Pilafian’s deep trust in allowing his guest artists the creative freedom to massage his dancers into shape-shifting roles, ones they embraced with full presence and tangible depth.