Ninette Paloma, founder of the Santa Barbara Center for Aerial Dance, has created something essential and vibrant in the Santa Barbara dance scene with her Floor to Air Aerial Dance Festival. The event attracts aerial dancers from all over the world and includes a week of workshops and educational opportunities for young dancers to train with professional artists who travel and perform internationally. The final event of the festival, the showcase performance Elemental You, culminated this year’s two-week journey of choreography, rehearsal, and artistic collaboration in one of the most distinctive dance performances of the season. Elemental You, choreographed by Paloma (in collaboration with her visiting artists), featured the six travelling professional aerial artists in performance with several career-track area dancers from Paloma’s studio. Elemental You consisted of three performance pieces of unique personality that emphasized the dancers’ ability to meld astonishing physical prowess and dexterity with grace and a refined expression of mood.
Empathy in Blue Minor allowed performers to exercise isolation within community. Though the dancers presented a unified energy on stage, each one took to flight on the various aerial riggings with a sense of solitude. Suspended at different levels, dancers reached into thin air, seeking, but never connecting. Empathy in Blue Minor secluded dancers in space while simultaneously relating them in a cohesive performance.
Drinking with Men presented a more unruly style of performance, one in which the illusion of entropy was shown through the precision of the aerial style. The dynamic of this piece was robust, and gave the elusive vision of a theatrical narrative suffused in the history of Paloma’s Floor to Air Festival.
The final piece, Elemental You, presented the essence of Paloma’s Floor to Air movement language: one exotic, confident, and soulful. The skill and strength of the performers was striking, and the illusion of flight was ethereal. The aerial arts allow dancers to be suspended in every dimension of the performance area, and Elemental You utilized the entire available floor and air space in their production. The dangling silks and bars and ropes and hoops were integrated into the choreography in a way that highlighted the seemingly effortless transition from ground to flight.
Featuring Emily Auman, Isabel Barense, Allie Cole, Helen Dickson, Dana Dugan, Danielle Garrison, Rachna Hailey, Lydia Johnson, Sophia Phillips, and Luna Webster, this year’s final performance of the Santa Barbara Floor to Air Festival was exciting and unique, and Paloma is certainly leaving her mark on the Santa Barbara dance community by organizing this ambitious annual event.