Last Wednesday night, dancers from the Santa Barbara community at-large gathered downtown at SOhO Restaurant & Music Club to partake in The Independent’s inaugural Dance Awards celebration. Modeled after our Independent Theater Awards, which have been going strong for more than two decades (see independent.com/2016TheaterAwards for the list of this year’s winners), the event saw folks honored for work in categories including choreography, performance, and innovation.
Nebula Dance Lab’s Devyn Duex received the first award of the evening for her collaborative showcase HHII, which brought together 21 companies from around the world in a three-day performance showcase. Two pairs of dancers were honored for their dazzling duets: Christina Sanchez and Tracy Kofford for their captivating pas de deux in Christopher Pilafian’s “Strange Attractor,” and Leila Drake Fossek and Thomas Fant (who was unable to attend) for their sizzling interpretation of The Nutcracker’s “Arabian,” choreographed by Rodney Gustafson.
Up-and-comers Weslie Ching and Taylor Fisher were both recognized — Ching for her choreography in “We Are Made of Stars” and Fischer for her performance in Selah Dance Collective’s “There Will Be Time.” Karyn Laver earned an award for her innovative, multidisciplinary work throughout the season that included tap, mambo, and lyrical, as well as the dramatic “Dance with You.”
Santa Barbara Dance Theater (SBDT) Artistic Director Christopher Pilafian (who was unable to attend) was recognized for his choreography on “Strange Attractor,” which debuted this season for SBDT. Dancer Nikki Pfeiffer was lauded for her enthralling performances this season that saw her in the works of six choreographers, including Jerry Pearson and Josh Beamish.
The last two awards of the night were given to Cecily Stewart, for excellence in dance theater choreography, specifically for her piece “Anne’s Window,” based on the life of Anne Frank, and to Rodney Gustafson’s State Street Ballet for overall artistic repertory for its 2016 season, including Carmina Burana.