In honor of its 10-year anniversary, DANCEworks has invited all eight of its past resident artists back to Santa Barbara for an all-star reunion — with a bonus. Each choreographer has been tasked with creating a five-minute solo to be performed during the second half of the program, allowing audiences a dazzling retrospective of the DANCEworks catalogue. Read on to find out about the former DANCEworks resident artists and the pieces they created during their original four-week tenures.
Aszure Barton (2009)
When Aszure Barton’s liquid choreography first poured into the Lobero Theatre back in 2006, word spread that her arsenal of dancers would include a certain Mikhail Baryshnikov, igniting a now-legendary frenzy to secure tickets. “It was the first and only time we ever sold out at the Lobero,” laughed DANCEworks Artistic Director Dianne Vapnek, recalling the line that snaked around the theater. In 2009, dance audiences returned to witness the fruit of Barton’s formal residency (the first of her career) in Busk, a sleekly composed ode to the humble street entertainer that continues to be performed today.
Keigwin + Company (2010)
Just days before Larry Keigwin was to roll out his high-octane residency piece No Exit, he was marching his dancers up State Street on a hunt for last-minute costumes and without a trace of concern. “We just blew our budget,” he cackled, holding up a set of shimmering Betsey Johnson taffeta dresses. They would prove to be the cherry on top of one of DANCEworks’s most beloved residencies, with dozens of Santa Barbarans hitting the stage in a made-in-California community performance set to Maurice Ravel’s Boléro, filled with beach-towel flamenco and a chorus of sunning buns. Keigwin’s “community Boléros” have since become one of his traveling staples, with 13 to date, from Santa Barbara to Sarasota.
Doug Elkins (2011)
When Doug Elkins arrived in Santa Barbara, his career was already catapulting skyward, with him having pocketed two Bessie awards and touring with his critically acclaimed work Fräulein Maria. So when Elkins announced he would be deconstructing Shakespeare’s Othello to Motown tracks over the course of his four-week residency, the city showed up in numbers to cheer on his latest undertaking. What they witnessed was a Mad Hatter mash-up of hip-hop, martial arts, and contemporary dance dripping with passion and urban cool. Mo(or)town/Redux went on to rock some of the country’s most prestigious festivals and stages, including Jacob’s Pillow Dance Festival and The Joyce Theater in New York City.
Brian Brooks (2012)
When Santa Barbara audiences first caught a glimpse of the Brian Brooks method, it was under the glimmering expanse of a metal canopy, an elaborate stage set built for a residency piece formulating urban dismay through a series of rhythmic patterns and gestures titled Big City. These days, anyone following dance around the country would be hard-pressed not to notice Brooks has been keeping mighty busy. From a high-profile collaboration with former New York City Ballet principal Wendy Whelan to a choreographic dream job at Chicago’s Harris Theater, Brooks has been sinking his teeth into juicy endeavors, and he praises his DANCEworks residency for steering the way. “Dianne [Vapnek] offered me the gift of time and space — the most valuable commodity to an artist — during a turning point in my life, and I am forever indebted to her,” he said.
Keigwin + Company (2013)
Nothing less than bouffant hairdos and shimmering rain curtains would do for DANCEworks’ five-year anniversary, and Keigwin and Co. proved that dance was twice as nice the second time around. Flexing his choreographic range, Keigwin bookended a collection of his greatest hits with two wildly distinctive new pieces, the elegantly executed Seven and a modernist showgirl romp titled Girls that harked back to his cabaret days, subsequently inspiring a return to his own dance career after his Santa Barbara residency ended. “There’s a realization that I’ve given so much to dancers, and that maybe I want to give the dancer in me one last shot,” he said. What ensued was a witty and playfully campy ode to the roots of his company titled Places Please!, which would debut on the Lobero stage four years later.
Mark Dendy (2014)
Never one to shy away from controversy, Mark Dendy hit the Lobero stage running with a searing exploration of a society unhinged in Dystopian Distractions!, a timely physical satire sharply executed with hefty doses of Dendy wit and visually poignant choreography. Whatever was awakened in Dendy during his DANCEworks residency seemed to have a significant and lasting effect, as excerpts of Dystopian evolved into a continued examination of political and pop culture, unfurling into the gold-lamé-fueled and wholly entertaining production Elvis Everywhere. If you ever needed a reason to head east and catch a DANCEworks alumnus in their natural habitat, consider Dendy your calling card.
Adam Barruch (2015)
On the heels of Vapnek’s growing interest in experiential dance theater, a YouTube video of Adam Barruch caught her attention, and the rest is DANCEworks history. “It was important to me to show the diversity of the dance world, and Adam was being talked about all over New York,” she explained. Plucking most of his cast straight out of the city’s critically acclaimed physical theater production Sleep No More, Barruch and his artists headed west, and, with the direct blessings of Sweeney Todd composer Stephen Sondheim, began fleshing out a gestural manifestation of the famed musical, newly imagined for a fresh generation. In 2017, Barruch was awarded a residency at Lake Placid Center for the Arts to continue working on what will soon debut as an evening-length dance theater production of Sweeney Todd The Demon Barber of Fleet Street.
Shannon Gillen (2016)
The Lobero stage had never seen the likes of rubber mulch until Shannon Gillen showed up with a crystalline request: Create a buoyant and danceable surface that adequately resembled a forest floor for her velocity-packed production of a camping trip gone trippy in FUTURE PERFECT. Four weeks and three tons of shredded tires later, Gillen had created a dynamic platform for her flight-bound style of dance, expertly blending voice and movement into one physical quest for the meaning of life. FUTURE PERFECT enjoyed one final run in New York City before the rubber mulch was donated to an elementary school in Queens.
Kate Weare Company (2017)
Kate Weare’s residency may have set out to encourage a dialogue between two distinctive dance forms, Argentine tango and contemporary dance, but what surfaced over the course of her monthlong residency was a head-on analysis of culture and deeply rooted traditions. In Sin Salida/In Love I Broke Beyond, the subject of gender roles and identification loomed heavily over the minimalist stage, shifting its weight and significance as the dancers took turns stepping in and out of their comfort zones. The success of Weare’s cross-pollination led Sin Salida overseas, where a residency and performance in Lyon, France, was met with matching enthusiasm. “These two genres hold enormous potential for both growth and conflict. I’m straight-up impressed that we’ve all managed to bend without breaking,” said Weare.