During the past 40 years, Santa Barbara Dance Theater (SBDT) has galvanized its community role as a multifaceted creative lab for choreography and performance, serving as an educational platform for professional dancers and students to draw inspiration from one another. Within the supportive confines of the UC school system, SBDT has had the unique opportunity to utilize resources otherwise unavailable to a regional company of its size, pulling in talent that has catapulted its reputation into a forum for boundary-pushing movement.
This season, the organization steps off campus and heads to the Lobero Theatre for a downtown appearance and a few edgy works to add to its growing repertoire. “I grew up in an urban setting,” mused SBDT Artistic Director Christopher Pilafian, “so I’m constantly drawn to the energy of density and diversity.” The program is titled Santa Barbara Dance Theater … and Friends and is chock-full of guest artists and cutting-edge choreographers who will be adding their distinctive approaches to an already heterogeneous company.
Joining the organization this season is Canadian choreographer Joshua Beamish, whose latest work for the Royal Ballet in London has already garnered well-earned attention, and Emily Schoen, an emerging choreographer fresh from a few seasons with Keigwin + Company and Jacob’s Pillow Dance. The two have hand-selected dancers from both SBDT and the greater Santa Barbara community to set contemporary works touching on environmental and conceptual themes.
The program will also include an encore presentation of Pilafian’s “Strange Attractor” and a solo performance by Beamish himself, offering a rare treat for Santa Barbara audiences to juxtapose an eclectic range of styles and approaches over the course of one evening. When asked about the significance of bringing a sweeping scope of artists and methods out of the university and into the city’s urban artery, Pilafian doesn’t miss a beat: “As performing artists, we’re in the business of inspiration and stimulation, and I want to see SBDT embraced by the entire community as a strong embodied instrument for the development of an artistic voice.”
Santa Barbara Dance Theater … and Friends takes place Wednesday-Thursday, May 4-5, at 7:30 p.m. at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.). Call (805) 963-0761.