Passion or Parody?

Motional Stories, presented by Santa Barbara Dance Theatre. At
UCSB’s Hatlen Theatre, Friday, January 19.

Reviewed by Elizabeth Schwyzer

Founding Artistic Director Jerry Pearson reminded the audience
Friday night that the Santa Barbara Dance Theatre has been around
for 16 years. For the duration of that time, the company’s
repertory has been primarily Pearson’s own choreography. Their most
recent program, Motional Stories, was exclusively his work.

IMG_74-copy.jpgThe program opened with “What Goes Up?,”
an excerpt from the 2001 work Artifice. Framed at both ends by the
arresting image of a bare male torso writhing above a floor-length
white skirt, the main body of the dance was a formless,
exhilarating dreamscape. Slow-motion video clips of dancers leaping
on a sandy beach formed the backdrop for this free-flowing romp.
The effect was light and lively, if at times a bit simplistic; at
one point, they lined up to surge across the diagonals, leaping in
turn as they reached the spotlight.

Next up was the premiere of Pearson’s take on “Romeo and
Juliet,” which landed somewhere between sincerity and slapstick.
Dressed in white corsets and undergarments, the dancers stuck to a
literal enactment of the plot. As a synopsis of the play flashed
across the scrim, the dancers struggled to strike a balance between
mime and movement. The set for the piece was composed of
lightweight boxes that the dancers stacked and toppled, crashed
through and tossed about. Marcos Duran as Romeo was convincingly
anguished; as Juliet, Sarah Pon was as delicately exquisite as
could be; and yet the blend of melodrama and humor fell short of

After intermission, “Strange Boat” gave the dancers a better
opportunity to show off their talent and physiques. At times they
acted as a group, shuffling their feet in unison and moving
laterally across the stage. Next up was Pearson’s second premiere
of the evening: four short dances called “Dumb Stories.” In satin
shorts and skimpy tops, the dancers shook their stuff and eyed one
another to the thumping dance hall beats of DJ Paul Oakenfold.
Behind them, enormous images of their faces were projected showing
the dancers prodding and preening themselves as if in bathroom
mirrors. The final section, “Cool Shoes,” took the theme of shallow
behavior to its ultimate and tasteless conclusion—a bloody gunfight
over a sexy pair of boots. Erika Kloumann was the last one
standing, her fingers forming the proverbial smoking gun. Then she
turned and fired at the audience.

Hit or miss? Let’s just say she walked away in some mighty cool


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