For three successive years, Nebula Dance Lab has opened its season with a program directed toward the youth outreach arm of its organization, bussing in 1,000 area students for an afternoon at the theater the likes of which many have never experienced before. As such, its productions tend to walk a deliberate line between investigation and the fantastical, thoughtfully balancing content that might transcend age and audience. With Through the Looking Glass, the company has more than hit its stride, pulling together distinctive facets of live music, visual art, and varying genres of dance for an unforgettable evening down the rabbit hole of curiosity.
Artistic Director Devyn Duex chose wisely in tapping two of Santa Barbara’s most spirited choreographers, Meredith Cabaniss and Karyn Laver, whose signature inclinations toward the syncopated aligned expertly within the whimsy of an abstract narrative. Cabaniss’s spatial acuteness and use of repetition allowed each section to spill seamlessly into the next, while Laver’s tap-dancing Tweedledee and Tweedledum (with Caitlin Davis) brought a flash of delight into an already stirring program. In the role of Alice, dancer Lauren Serrano managed to capture the heroine’s probing complexity without uttering a single phrase, leaping and slicing through an imaginary world with inimitable grace.
In satisfying contrast, Edgar Zendejas’s commissioned “Holocene” provided a wistful layer of moody undertones, with five dancers journeying through the stages of life in reactionary cadence.
Nebula Dance Lab is carving out a significant reputation in the art of dance theater, and the results are nothing short of dazzling.