In the early months of each New Year, the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance provides a chance for the dance community to come together in an event that’s as much family reunion as it is performance. Dancers who’ve launched their careers in New York and elsewhere return to share their new skills. Teachers who’ve spent the term in the studio emerge to offer their work to the larger community. And students of the city’s many disparate dance programs take the stage.

The event is Kinesis, Santa Barbara’s annual showcase of new choreography, and while it is one of the community’s beloved dance traditions, it’s also one of the most difficult programs to review. How to acknowledge in the same breath both the pared-down formalism and subtle physical humor of Carrie Diamond’s “Haringduet II” and the clothes-shedding orgy of Lauren Nicole C. Aranador’s “Friend Me, Find Me”? How to make sense of the fact that the young creators of “The Times They Are A-Changing” and “The Wind” chose rock anthems of the 1960s and ’70s, while Christina Corbett and Robin Bisio turned to slam poetry and live disc jockeys for their ultra-contemporary scores?

Anna Carnes (left) and Nathan Cottam in Carrie Diamond's "Haringduet II."
David Bazemore

As in years past, some choreographers appeared in their own work, though to very different effect: “Unbound” choreographer Nicole Helton flung herself into the air and landed on her knees, while “Harpschordia” creator Thea Vandervoort showed innate sensitivity to the relationship between classical ballet technique and Handel’s baroque structures.

Male dancers and choreographers were well represented this year: SBCC student choreographer Rene Garcia danced alongside colleagues Kevin Deelen and Patrick Pieng in “La Concencia,” a contemporary trio backed by an anxious monologue. (“Why can’t I just be myself?” a male voice muttered.) Deelen also appeared alongside Colin Umeki in Tracy Kofford’s “Forgetting to Remember,” a tender duet about loss, grief, and healing.

Unsurprisingly, UCSB students, graduates, and faculty members featured prominently on the program. The cast of Tenaya Cowsill’s “By Faith, Not Sight” was composed of UCSB Dance Company members whose training showed in confident stage presence and fully committed partnering, while faculty member Nancy Colahan worked with UCSB grads Kyle Castillo and Leila Drake to create “K&L in Tandem,” a tribute to two very talented movers, and an investigation of the dynamics between them.

Curtain call brought everyone on stage: tutus and toe shoes, bondage gear and bras, cargo shorts and flannels. They danced together, a vision of the joyful, motley crew that is Santa Barbara’s dance community.


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