Creative Juices

Then Again: New and Very New Dance from Southern California

At Center Stage Theater, Sunday, July 30.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

ThenAgain200dpi.jpgJust when the excitement of Summerdance
had me itching to bust this joint for New York, Santa Barbara’s
Iridian Arts reminded me why this town is where I want to be.

Then Again was the final show in Iridian Arts’ successful first
season of bringing contemporary music and multi-media performances
to Center Stage. The nonprofit’s aim is to provide work that is
current, bold, and important; Then Again overshot the mark. Curated
by Santa Barbara dance artist Stephanie Nugent, the evening
featured experimental and in-progress works in an open-house style,
where performers warmed up onstage and choreographers introduced
their work and shared their working concepts. Nugent’s own work
opened the program: a solo juxtaposed to a duet exploring the
problem of fixing what is broken. Cherise Richards’s discarded
bouquet of daisies mirrored her disjointed dancing; rearranging the
flowers in a vase did little to unify Nugent and Marcos Duran’s
stilted relationship.

Los Angeles-based choreographer Carmela Hermann appeared in two
pieces combining dance and spoken word. In the hilarious solo
“Thanks To, Because, and Yet, In Spite Of,” created with Kristen
Smiarowski, Hermann delivered a monologue about her personal life
shot through with anxiety about current world events, while
concurrently announcing the provenance of her every gesture. “It
takes time to heel, figure things out, elbow, hip,” she explained,
bent sideways with her elbows pointing skyward. Inner turmoil
produced contortions of a different kind in Stephanie Powell’s “The
Hill,” a Graham-esque expression of angst at the difficulties of
witnessing a parent’s deterioration. In contrast, Cal State Long
Beach faculty member Keith Johnson’s four solo studies set to the
starkly abstract piano music of George Crumb (“I chose music that I
hated, just because it felt good,” he quipped) unemotionally
explored the architecture of the music and of the body in

The most demanding and most arresting work of the night was
Taisha Paggett’s “We Imitate Fences,” a mesmerizing study of a
woman’s psychological collapse accompanied by the most terrifyingly
thrilling soundscape I think I’ve ever heard. In a striped
housedress she appeared confined to the square of green carpet
where she sat stock still to the insistent clash of drums and
brass, moved slowly and with obsessive precision to quiet bird
song, then flailed in wild desperation as sound folded into
nightmarish chaos. Intermission followed, and I had to step outside
to regain my composure.

At the post-show reception, artists and audience members
chatted, feedback flew, and inspiration flowed along with plastic
cups of two-buck Chuck. It was then I realized: It just wouldn’t be
the same in New York.


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