Christopher Pilafian's lively "Dance for an Unknown Occasion" was a vibrant movement ritual.
David Bazemore

Under the direction of Christopher Pilafian, last weekend’s Fall Dance Concert at UCSB, Envision, included six distinct and delectable offerings choreographed by graduating senior students and faculty.

The three student pieces were varied and rich. Monica Ford’s “Xibalba Be” was born of theories on the Maya calendar’s end in 2012. The movement went from apocalyptically chaotic to lyrically flowing, and effective use was made of a large metal sculpture center stage and dramatic lighting.

“Anomaly,” by Eva Faizi, reflected the mixed cultural influences of her family, Austrian and Afghani. The two styles of costume-pale blue long skirts with aprons and bodices and red stylized belly dance regalia-provided a fascinating contrast, as did the interplay between the two groups.

With a video of her grandmother projected onto a scrim to open the piece, Sarah Anderson told the story of a life well lived in “Faded Apparitions,” and the dancers provided graceful movement and beautiful partnering.

Faculty members showed masterful and imaginative work. Valerie Huston took inspiration from Icelandic music and themes of loss to create “Dragusaga” (“Ghost Story”). With a large cast of dancers, the piece started out with moody lighting and haunting music, and by the end transformed satisfyingly into a brightly lit, joyful whirl.

Christina McCarthy took a funny, quirky look at dating in the modern age in “Man X,” blending spoken text and humorous music with movement. This dance-theater piece included actors from the bachelor of fine arts acting program as well as traditional dancers, and portrayed two scientists studying a young man grappling with speed-dating and personal ads.

The evening ended with Pilafian’s revival of “Dance for an Unknown Occasion,” last seen in 2002 and performed here by the entire UCSB Dance Company. All in red, the dancers began with a series of yoga-like poses against a backdrop of hanging panels. As the movement became livelier, it appeared to incorporate Brazilian martial art, and the music included Tuvan throat singing. Particularly notable in this piece was the blend of unison and counterpoint, a signature of Pilafian’s work. With its bright colors and ceremonial tone, this gorgeous dance was a ritual offering to all in attendance.


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