It’s nearly 10 on a Sunday evening, and Weslie Ching knows everyone wants to go home. “If you need to leave, I understand,” she assures her dancers, who are peppered across the studio floor, hinged over in various stretching positions. Nobody stirs, and without missing a beat, Ching launches into detailed notes from the evening’s rehearsal, the dancers nodding in agreement as modifications for spatial direction and facial expressions are offered. “Weslie’s specificity is a challenge — but in a good way,” says company dancer Shelby Lynn Joyce. “If she wants something from you, she’s gonna get it.”
When Ching graduated from UCSB’s Dance Department in 2002, she found herself at a creative crossroads. “I didn’t really shine as a dancer, but I felt like I excelled in choreography,” she remembers, “and sometimes life and work slows down the process of discovering that.” It would take a lower-back injury for her to make the shift, and after several specialized commissions from area organizations (a multimedia installation for LightWorks Isla Vista and a site-specific dance for MCA Santa Barbara, to name a few), Ching was ready to tackle a season of full-length work.
In Semiosis, Ching’s evening-length debut this weekend at Center Stage Theater, the metaphor of significance carries through to her highly detailed and systematic approach to contemporary movement, with a stellar cast that includes Nikki Pfeiffer, Natalia Perea, Lauren Serrano, Shelby Lynn Joyce, and Nicole Powell. The evening will also include presentations from multimedia collaborators Robin Bisio, Ethan Turpin, and Jessica Kondrath, as well as a live musical performance by area band Ghost Tiger.
Her self-described “curiosity with both physical and metaphysical cosmology,” as well as her distinctive ability to etherealize austerity, allows Ching to create a fine line between performance art and concert dance, offering Santa Barbara audiences a fresh and layered perspective not to be missed.
Semiosis takes place Saturday, October 1, at 8 p.m. at Center Stage Theater (751 Paseo Nuevo). Call (805) 963-0408 or see centerstagetheater.org.