When the forces of nature tore into the city with a weekend of torrential rainstorms, Santa Barbara dance lovers waded through town with matching ferocity to witness this year’s stellar lineup at the HH11 Dance Festival, filing into Center Stage Theater February 16-19 for four days of performances from more than 200 dancers across the states and overseas.
The festival’s underlying goal of exposing audiences to myriad disciplines and approaches was in full effect with each distinctive two-hour program, serving up a thoughtful collection of works from contemporary ballet (Feledi János’s quietly beautiful In the Course of Time) to classic Indian (Kiruthika Rathanaswami’s intricate handwork in Thillana.) Beyond genres, this year’s festival also offered up a satisfying balance of comedic relief and political statement, adding a palpable nuance to the classic adage of movement as metaphor.
Highlights included Ashley Kohler-Reynolds’s pulsating dexterity in Here Again, Lyndsay Lewis’s elbow-thrusting and satisfyingly visceral This Digging Reminds You, the orderly disorder of Weslie Ching’s brilliant The Entirety of Us, Mauricio Vera’s touching homage to his South American roots in the cueca-inspired Dear Childhood …, and the debut of SBCC Dance Company member Daisy Mohrman, whose range and passion illuminated no fewer than four distinguishing dance works.
The festival culminated with Irishia Hubbard’s Southern-rooted study of the body politic in Sacred Matters, where history and unrelenting hope swirled against a gratifying soundtrack by Wynton Marsalis. As all 13 dancers raised their arms in a fortifying gesture of unification, the message of dance as a beacon for social change became resoundingly clear and undeniably relevant.