With their chandeliers polished and their velvet curtains steamed, Santa Barbara theaters have kicked off a dazzling new season packed with an impressively diverse roster of international headliners, community showcases, and an onslaught of formidable talent. Equally exciting among the high profile and homegrown is the increasing popularity of what can best be described as hybrid programming — curated forums that reach past performance to delve deep into the creative process. Read on as we highlight two area dance presenters who are trading in mystique for insight, tearing down the fourth wall and making a strong case for the art of the intimate encounter.
Christina Sanchez Dance
“Ballet is a wonderful dance foundation, but it’s not the oldest or the first,” said Christina Sanchez, artistic director of the newly launched presenting company Christina Sanchez Dance (CSD). “African and Indian influences are just as significant, and it’s so important to understand the why of dance just as much as the how.”
Sanchez would know. As a dance student at the Alvin Ailey School, she would spend countless hours at the New York Public Library poring over history books that would serve as fuel for a decades-long career as a professional dancer on both coasts. Now, she said, she’s ready to give back the same invaluable knowledge she was afforded, joining forces with husband Eric Sanchez (a start-up whiz who’ll be heading the creative division of the company) and a network of highly regarded dance allies to offer specialized workshops and forums for performers and audiences alike. “As a member of Ailey, it became very clear that we were also ambassadors for dance, and I remember seeing and feeling the impact it had on people’s lives,” recalled Christina.
The boutique company’s first project is an intimate evening on Monday, October 8, 6:30 p.m., with the internationally acclaimed Complexions Contemporary Ballet that will include a community master class on the Lobero Theatre stage, followed by an open rehearsal that includes an exclusive peek at their soon-to-be-premiered piece Woke. Ticket holders will also be treated to a Q&A session and wine reception post-rehearsal with the company. “There’s a stigma that ballet is Swan Lake and The Nutcracker,” said Sanchez. “Complexions reflects another side of neoclassical ballet, combining Bach with Bowie in a way that will be incredible to witness.” CSD’s aim is to encourage an egalitarian approach to dance, where artists and audiences can achieve common ground. “We all have breath, and we all have a heartbeat,” offered Christina. “Which means we all have an innate sense of rhythm. That’s a great place to start.”
Creator of one of the city’s first community arts salons, dancer Cybil Gilbertson has always approached her craft as a vessel for engaging in stimulating dialogue. In 2009, the suicide of her beloved aunt sparked an urgency to create a community forum “for processing and exploring challenging topics through the healing power of the arts.” What emerged from Gilbertson’s grief was Nectar, a transformative evening of dance and song that challenged artists of varying genres to bare their stark humanity around a unifying theme. “Nectar is not about being perfect,” explained Gilbertson, “but about bringing voice to what is present and what needs to be shared.”
Ten years later, Nectar has hosted more than 300 artists and highlighted the work of more than 20 area nonprofits, casting a broader net to include theater and visual arts, as well as a youth-based arm titled the Little Bee Festival. This month’s two-day anniversary presentation will highlight the Glendon Association for suicide prevention and will feature live performances by Melissa Lowenstein, Hannah Ruth Brothers, and Paul Forester, among others, as well as visual storytelling and interactive art by Rachel Simone Wilkins and MISA/Dhylen and Michelle.
For the uninitiated, an evening at Nectar is like an all-inclusive charrette, where community members take turns offering personal insight on the human condition. “We believe that everyone is an artist,” emphasized Gilbertson, “and that art is for everyone.”
Christina Sanchez Dance presents Complexions Monday, October 8, 6:30 p.m., at the Lobero Theatre (33 E. Canon Perdido St.) Call 963-0761 or see lobero.org. Cybil Gilbertson presents Nectar Saturday, October 13, 5-10 p.m., and Sunday, October 14, 2-4 p.m., at Yoga Soup (28 Parker Wy.). See yogasoup.com/nectar-anniversary.