Alma.Sama. is a piece of contemporary dance theater featuring artists from across the globe. Several years in the making, the piece was conceived when artists from Santa Barbara’s performance collective ArtBark International met dramaturg Marijan Pušavec while on tour in Slovenia. Pušavec, acclaimed for his work in the arts, had envisioned a theatrical dance narrative inspired by the life of globetrotting Slovenian writer Alma Karlin. Alma.Sama. (which translates to “Alma. Alone.”) is a nonlinear exploration of a life lived outside the conventional standards. ArtBark International will present Alma.Sama., which premiered to critical acclaim and audience popularity in 2015, this weekend in Santa Barbara at the Gail Towbes Center for Dance.
A Slovenian-Austrian scholar of the early 20th century, Karlin lived a life of exploration. A language expert who traveled extensively throughout the world, she published records of her journeys and experiences to European audiences. She also opened a language school and amassed a vast collection of cultural artifacts from around the world. Resilient and steadfast, Karlin aligned herself with Nazi resistance by housing an anti-Nazi journalist and choosing to cease publication of her work in German after the Nazis rose to power.
ArtBark has partnered with collaborating producers Cankarjev Dom Slovenia and House of Culture Celje to create a piece that celebrates the memory of this fascinating Slovenian historical figure. Written by Pušavec and Artbark artists Misa and Stephen Kelly, Alma.Sama. is performed with live music by pianist and composer Stephen Kelly and features area dancer and choreographer Misa Kelly, Slovenian dancer Mojca Majcen, and New York artist Trina Mannino. ArtBark’s creative process is not hindered by the fact that their cooperating artists are scattered across the world; in fact, ArtBark has embraced the technology (e.g., Skype, etc.) that allows their artists to communicate, collaborate, and rehearse together, regardless of physical location.
Performance art is expression, but it’s also a form of activism. ArtBark’s work is particularly interesting in that it offers a unique and authentic artistic viewpoint that presents an impassioned plea for social accountability. Pieces that explore the female experience have an innate social commentary — the simultaneous worship and suppression of an entire gender is a cultural phenomenon that isn’t a distant social memory. Women’s history is full of inspirational figures who pursued purpose outside of the limited role provided to them by society. In many cases, these women pushed the boundaries of custom to enjoy the privileges afforded men.
Today, women are clamoring for equality. Marches and speeches appeal to the logos of the movement, but artistic representations of revolutionary women appeal to the pathos of the movement. Alma.Sama. celebrates this innovative energy by introducing audiences to Karlin’s global worldview, one marked by empathy and heavily influenced by a profound connection to a variety of cultures and social landscapes. Represented in spirit by the connection between Santa Barbara’s ArtBark artists and their collaborating artists across the world, Alma.Sama. offers a presentation of ideas and expression that cross the barriers of language and culture.
411: Alma.Sama. takes place Sunday, April 30, 6 p.m., at the Gail Towbes Center for Dance (2285 Las Positas Rd.). The evening also features a presentation of a new work-in-progress by Devyn Duex of Nebula Dance Lab. Call (805) 569-0389 or see artbark.org.