SBDT dancers Cybil Gilbertson and Blake Hennessy-York.
David Bazemore

For the third year in a row, the performers of Santa Barbara Dance Theatre (SBDT) presented an informal concert of their own original choreography. SBDT is just back from an international tour, including visits to China and Korea, hence the title of this year’s show, Jetlagged. The audience on Tuesday night was warm and supportive, and the Ballet Studio Theater at UCSB crackled with creativity.

The show kicked off with the sweet and soulful guitar and original folk songs of Fly to Blue, aka David Gunn and Valarie Mulberry. Nick Coventry joined them on violin, and later returned to accompany his girlfriend, dancer Melissa Ullom, in her dynamic and sensual solo, “moving inscriptions.”

In another solo, Ian McGinnis’s “Traipsing through the garden of Eden,” Ullom channeled the energy and spirit of a child, as well as offering glimpses of the woman that child would become.

McGinnis’s second offering of the evening, “Wick of a long burning candle,” was a solo dedicated to “the trials and adversities of the women in my life.” SBDT member Sarah Pon, who is always a pleasure to watch, created a shimmering presence: strong, sprightly, sinewy, and soft, all at the same time.

Pon also appeared alongside Blake Hennessy-York and Weslie Ching in Emily Wheeler’s “Back to Waiting,” a piece that moved from peaceful and measured to energetic and playful. Matthew Nelson’s “Thripple” was a trio to discordant music, incorporating unusual body shapes and wavelike motions. His solo, “In My Pocket,” used bouncy, athletic movements and was danced by Julian Young in a sporty white ensemble.

Less-conventional was Thomas McDonnell’s “Jesus Improv.” Two small children accompanied him onstage as he explained that he wasn’t able to find a babysitter. He went on to strum his guitar, singing and sharing a story of his path through his early life to dancing and his Christian faith. The kids behaved admirably, aside from upstaging him a bit and eliciting chuckles from the audience.

The finale brought a deeper layer of meaning to the show’s title. Cybil Gilbertson danced along with five others in her piece, “These People, Like Poems,” set to Ani DiFranco’s spoken-word and musical recording about the events of September 11, 2001. At turns gritty, touching, and comical, Gilbertson’s piece presented vignettes of that day alongside Americans’ actions before and since. Here as in other recent works, Gilbertson is showing a real ability to blend music, dance, and social commentary with compelling results.


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