Elizabeth Schwyzer, Devyn Duex, and Nicole Helton in Heather Carney Shea's "Between Silences."

To begin a new year and a new season of dance, Santa Barbara showcased its choreographic talent last weekend at the annual New Works performance at Center Stage Theater. The show presented 11 pieces in a variety of styles and mediums, including a film projection by Robin Bisio featuring dancer Dorrie Tames Powell. Dancing was consistently strong throughout the evening. One of the night’s highlights was “Ethereal Bodies” choreographed by Valerie Huston. Set to a Romantic score by Chopin, the work was about the death of a good friend of Huston’s and featured eight dancers in shapeless grey dresses, each exhibiting a beautiful quality of precise but fluid movement. “Short Trip Home” was a bewitching and tender duet choreographed by Jacqueline Wiley and danced between her and her husband, Jack. Equally captivating were Nancy Colahan’s “she passes through : ” and Misa Kelly’s eerie and humorous “Le Jardin Rouge.” At the conclusion of Friday night’s show, the Dance Alliance presented its 11th Lifetime Achievement Award to Luis Goena for his contribution to dance through 60 years of teaching Balkan folk dance in Santa Barbara.

Kaita Lepore in Misa Kelly's "Le Jardin Rouge."

Other New Works offered this year were “The Color of Water,” an impressionistic classical ballet choreographed by Delila Moseley set to a Tchaikovsky score, and “Psalm 22,” choreographed by E. Bonnie Lewis and danced by Rina van de Kamp. Kara Stewart, the founder of Fusion Dance Company, combined acrobatics and jazz dance in “Rain,” while Susan Shaberman added a substantial political component to the production with “How Could We?” a solo that began as a commentary on Hitler and ended with an American flag draped across the dancer’s body-an indicator of history repeating itself.

Heather Carney Shea paid a tribute to suspension and release in “Between Silences,” one of the evening’s strongest pieces, featuring Weslie Ching, Devyn Duex, Nicole Helton, and Elizabeth Schwyzer. The four dancers wore white velvet tops and frilly skirts, but athletic knee pads undercut the otherwise dainty costumes. The power of this piece, set to music by Alexandre Desplat, was accentuated by the dancers’ audible breathing.

For the show’s final piece, “As We Are,” choreographer Nicole Helton worked with Spencer of KJEE Radio to create a musical arrangement of nightclub beats beneath voiceovers by the dancers and other contributors. Colleen Bialas, Nicole Helton, Devyn Duex, and Denise Woods danced to the sounds of their own musings on life, love, and womanhood. The high-energy quartet ended the show on an upbeat note, combining imaginative, accessible choreography with some of the finest dancing Santa Barbara has to offer.


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