The 2018 Floor to Air Festival of aerial dance concluded on Friday, May 25 at the Lobero Theatre with choreographer Ninette Paloma’s troupe taking on the most ambitious project they have ever attempted. Partnering with the dancers of Santa Barbara City College Dance Company, the evening blended spectacular aerials with sophisticated floor choreography that complemented the themes developed in the air and enhanced the impact of the entire composition. The opening sequence, “Peel,” featured Isabel Musidora and Rachna Hailey on trapeze and Emily Stratton on the circular aerial device known as the lyra. After these three established the powerful, questing mood of the studio as a space of adventure and discovery, they were joined by Lucia Metcalfe, who offered a thrilling demonstration of what’s possible on the double corde lisse.
Next came the “Dance of the Roustabouts,” a large ensemble piece featuring all of the performers from “Peel” plus Olivia Powell, Skyler Storm, Ellie Simon, Mariah Slechter, Kara Le, Naphtali Bollenbaugh, Amelie Funk, and Natalia Catanea in a kaleidoscopic tour of their aerial world. By turns wild and restrained, vigorous and subtle, these performers explored the full range of possibilities presented by the conversation between the body and gravity.
After the intermission, two supremely elegant pieces featuring the aerialists from part one bookended a silks-augmented, non-aerial performance of “Alethia” by the SBCC dance group. It was a pleasure to see the way that Paloma’s increasingly confident and distinctive personal style of floor choreography is blending ever more seamlessly with the superb command of the aerial medium. We can look forward to an exciting future for this art form in Santa Barbara thanks both to the dedication of these performers and to the leadership of their teacher, choreographer, and tireless inspiration, Ninette Paloma.