It is always with great marvel that one bears witness to a young artist on the precipice, feet slowly backing away from the familiar and toward the prodigious unknown. Each spring, UCSB celebrates this dedicated rite of passage through its annual spring dance concert, and each year, a fresh perspective unfolds as a new set of graduating seniors descend on the Hatlen stage to reflect on how their studies might fit into the world’s broader conversation.
Guest choreographers Stephanie Gilliland (“Buffalo”) and Gianna Burright (“Anywhere I Can See the Moon”) offered prophecies of strength and hope for the graduating class through respective works that included multifaceted and technically driven composition (not to mention stunning lighting) and personalized accounts through an intimate voiceover soundtrack, while Alice Condodina’s reconstruction of José Limón’s “Psalm” brought a grounding sense of historical context to the program’s curation.
In four of the evening’s seven works, graduating seniors seized the choreographic reigns to explore the use of narrative and structure in distinctive manifestations of voice and approach, from the highly satisfying synchronicity of Rachel Epling’s vintage-filtered “Etched in Us” to Savannah Green’s pulsating push and pull against conformity in “Life in Cages” to Kelli Forman’s “Towards the Yin,” where street dance and gaga influences were fleshed out in four distinctive sections. The dazzling set design and spirited premise of Olivia Maggi’s wonderfully ambitious “The Breeders” fell just shy of execution without a definitive through line, though all four works perceptively touched on subjects that press against the psyche of a young artist on the verge.