Santa Barbara Dance Theater marked its 46th anniversary with Intimacy & Autonomy at the Hatlen Theater, January 18-22. Under the direction of new SBDT Artistic Director, Brandon Whited (Associate Professor of Dance/Director of Dance Performance), this show featured two guest choreographers in addition to Whited’s own premiere work.
Partial Adaptation, by guest choreographer David Maurice, started out with two women dancers in street clothes, their movements varied but fluid and concise. Soon, however, the dynamic shifted when one of them went into the audience and brought a young man onstage.
When it became apparent that he was to stay and become part of the piece, a fascinating element was introduced. Male-female power dynamics were explored as the dancers’ directed his movements and placement on the stage and interacted with him, at times mechanically but at times quite expressively.
Developed in partial collaboration with the six dancers, Her (Abridged) was the debut of a new piece by Whited. This abstract portrayal of the ongoing injustices women endure, incorporated movements that started out light but powerful. Later there were beautiful examples of supporting and sharing weight and cohesive group movement, seeming to reflect community. Near the end, the dancers’ wide-armed postures suggested spread wings, hinting at power and freedom.
In the dynamic and haunting Darling, by guest choreographer Helen Simoneau, five dancers started out wearing unusual ensembles of yellow satin briefs and loose, stretchy pink shirts. They showcased some innovative ways of sharing and transferring weight, often by holding and pulling at the fabric of each other’s shirts.
A surprising highlight was the moment when one dancer stood center stage, with another dancer on either side pulling the sleeves of her shirt out to extend nearly the width of the stage. As they all slowly revolved, turning her, it was as if she became temporarily a set piece, transcending traditional notions of dance.