Using Carl Jung’s theory of anima and animus (whereby archetypes of the male and female are said to live among all human beings) as a thematic platform, artistic director Christopher Pilafian kicked off Santa Barbara Dance Theater’s 41st season with a widely diverse and timely study of gender roles; how those intentions might play out on the greater stage is what makes each of the four works so relevantly affecting.
In Rebecca Lemme’s “Witnesse,” utilitarianism is the protagonist in a piece rife with unencumbered female strength. Army green jackets tug and conform around three dancers locked in a tribal call to arms, bearing the physical and proverbial weight of responsibility. By stark contrast, Brandon Whited and Shelby Lynn Joyce offer up a whisper-light pas de deux in Whited’s “Petit Pas,” challenging the yin and yang archetype through quietly fluid and wholly interchangeable movement.
In Jane Dudley’s “Cante Flamenco” (restaged here by Nancy Colahan), the seasoned confidence of dancer Christina Sanchez devours the stage’s expanse with poignant steps of intention and a piercing stare, paying homage to Spanish Civil War freedom fighter La Pasionaria, to whom the piece was dedicated.
In Pilafian’s “Mystique,” members of his newly formed apprentice program rub shoulders with company dancers in a breathtaking centerpiece work that considers the complexity of the female experience. Alluding to the virtuous gesticulating and constrictive expectations of the male gaze (with dancer Nicole Powell serving as the artist’s muse) before breaking open into a convulsive kaleidoscope of independent expression, Pilafian layers objection and empathy to theatrical effect.