Natalie McCall, Robin Wilson, and Nicole Powell in “The Grey Area.”
Phil Channing

Throughout history, artists have diligently swirled around themes of isolationism and division as responses to a fast-changing society, and in the dance world — where conflict takes on a corporeal urgency — those themes embody an intangible insistence with which the observer is forced to reckon. Last weekend, Christopher Pilafian and his Santa Barbara Dance Theater (SBDT) did just that in their quietly powerful presentation of Distance and Desire, surveying relationships and communication through a fresh and fertile lens.

In “The Grey Area,” guest choreographer Josh Manculich held space for indecision and conflict using a trifecta of movement strikingly executed by SBDT dancers Natalie McCall, Nicole Powell, and Robin Wilson before clearing the stage for “Monologue,” where the fits and starts of expression and independence were depicted to rousing effect by a single dancer, a minimalist chair, and a guttural soundtrack of Norwegian phonetics. In Yusha-Marie Sorzano’s “To All Our Ends,” Lauren Serrano joined her fellow SBDT dancers in a quartet that took on an animism-like quality, injecting spiritual energy into abstract and animalistic forms.

After the intermission, love and wistfulness enveloped the stage through seamless exchanges of weight and emotion in guest company Doug Elkins Choreography’s “O, round desire,” before the SBDT dancers returned (along with members of the SBDT apprentice company) for Pilafian’s “Chanson,” a hope-fueled study in diversity and unification distilled through multiple variations of a single song.

You have one more weekend to catch Pilafian’s latest incubation of innovative voices and approaches from across the dance world. Don’t miss it.


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