The most remarkable thing about Janusphere Dance Company’s West Coast tour this past weekend was not the small number of dancers in such a varied program but the communal approach the company took. Based in New York City, the contemporary ballet company is fairly new on the dance scene. The West Coast premiere of Four by Four this past weekend at Center Stage Theater showcased 10 performers who seemed adapted to switching roles from company founder, director, dancer, and choreographer with ease and artistic diligence.
As the show’s title suggested, the company’s technical and dramatic strengths were showcased in four new pieces. The opening piece, “Fractured,” was choreographed for six dancers by Janusphere cofounder Darion Smith, and set to music by Debussy and Ravel. This was ballet in a pure form, with clean classical lines, imaginative footwork, and an interesting concept of space and diagonal pathways.
The following number, “Tangle of Wings,” was by founding member Danielle Genest and set to a score by Eric Sculthorpe. Genest danced the pas de deux herself, partnered by Mark Burns in a sleek and sharp study of movement dynamics. The man and woman began by dancing individual solos but eventually found each other for a duet that combined jerky arm movements and well-executed lifts.
“Milonga” fused the elegance of classical ballet and the stylized intensity of tango, yet Kirill Matveev’s choreography was at times predictable in its symmetry and studied progression. It was clear, though, from their smiles and from the way they modulated their energy with each musical shift, that the six dancers were enjoying themselves immensely on stage.
The last piece of the evening was “Dances for Violin and Piano,” a dance for the entire company. Derek Williams choreographed the group ensemble, and the excitement of seeing so many performers onstage at once was the highlight of the evening.
With their innovative approach to running a dance company, Janusphere breathes new life into Santa Barbara’s dance scene. They may be small in size, but they are certainly mighty in repertoire and spirit.