It’s always a pleasure to see what the students in UCSB’s dance program have been working on, and this powerful, moving, multifaceted concert showed just how advanced the work there has become. Directed by the department’s newest hire, Assistant Professor of Dance Brandon Whited, and choreographed by six women, ranging from undergrads Andrea Rhoades, Kaydee Black, and Holly Warner through faculty members Brooke Smiley and Christina McCarthy, all the way to guest choreographer Andrea Miller, a Guggenheim fellow and the artistic director of New York’s Gallim Dance, the works brought out the best in a talented troupe of more than 30 dancers.
Smiley’s “Bone Stories” set the tone with a kaleidoscope of moods tightly wound around a core of vivid ensemble work. The degree of participation on the part of the seven dancers in the process of making the piece was evident not only in their movement but also in the soundtrack, which featured a ghostly appearance of their voices sharing the original “bone stories” around which the piece was assembled. Black’s quartet “Eddies” featured gamelan rhythms and holiday light headpieces along with live musician Richard Fish. Like all the pieces in the concert, “Eddies” featured the work of a whole crew of costumers, lighting designers, and sound editors drawn from the UCSB student population.
Warner’s “People R Us” used body percussion and intricate patterning to suggest the complexity of the social world. In “ba[r]red,” Rhoades set her dancers the task of discarding far more than seven veils in pursuit not of nudity but rather of a touching and universal sense of vulnerability. McCarthy’s “Nevermore” employed the prolific artist’s full range of skills, including choreography, drama, puppetry, and more, to envision a universe where the mundane and the supernatural coexist.
“Pupil Suite,” the work of guest artist Miller, was a revelation. Mixing funky moves to the eclectic sounds of Israel’s Balkan Beat Box, Miller’s “Suite” developed a fascinating dynamic that reached a climax with dancer Rebecca Elster’s extraordinary solo floor work, surely one of the highlights of this year’s dance season in Santa Barbara.