Levels of Heat II, presented by Fusion Dance Company.

Rhythm and Music

Kara Stewart and Cynthia Norton, director and assistant director of the Fusion Dance Company, created an emotionally evocative evening of performance. The company’s name is inspired by Stewart’s interest in fusing different dance styles and techniques, among them ballet, jazz, lyrical, modern, hip-hop, Afro-Brazilian, and tango, and the playful fusion was a joy to watch. The dancers creatively and eloquently expressed the mood of each piece, from the sensual to the playful to the profound.

Santa Barbara-based Fusion Dance Company brought emotion to a stylistically varied program.
Paul Wellman

The evening began with a bit of humor. The petite Norton had just begun dancing to “Tiny Dancer,” when all six-foot-two-inches of Armando Martinez joined her in a pink tutu. “Real Men Wear Pink,” his T-shirt proclaimed. Just when the audience didn’t know what to make of the parody, Martinez announced himself as the evening’s MC.

Martinez went on to introduce the company and Stewart’s vision, explaining that the 18 company members range in age from 15 to 24. These young dancers have the opportunity, through Stewart’s mentorship, to engage in professional dance with a contemporary edge. Many of the dancers also contribute to the choreography.

The program began on an energetic high note with Frenetic Energy, choreographed by Stewart and Norton in collaboration. T-shirts wrapped around dancers’ bodies like straightjackets came loose in the process of frenetic, yet in sync, dance moves, symbolizing breaking free from constraints. In Tap Out for the Night, darkness fell across the stage, and the in-unison punctuation of the three dancers’ shoes heralded a tap dance trio performed by Anni Ulfendahl, Brianna Louis, and Elizabeth Tenuto. Louis also choreographed and performed a solo, fusing Middle Eastern dance with jazz.

Guest artists Carlos Martinez and Conception Villareal danced a steamy duet, Latin Rhythms, and Cynthia Norton, Danny Soto, and Martinez joined together for a flirtatious, tango-inspired threesome. Stewart lent her choreography to an interpretation of the life of Christ, with Ashley Kohler as a talented partner, in Via Dolorosa.

At the end of the evening, live musicians Steve Cambell and Lyndsey Rust of Dancing Drum beat a fitting crescendo for the full company in Movement Calor, a piece that fused modern jazz and hip-hop with African and Latin music and movement sensibilities. It worked, although it was not the strongest of the evening’s pieces.

There is great value in providing a stage for dancers to experiment with various styles and forms, both as performers and choreographers. Fortunately for the audience, the results of Fusion’s experimentation were unfailingly fun to watch.


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