What do you get when you marry a boundary-bending dance company to a world-renowned research university? To our common good fortune, this isn’t a rhetorical question. Santa Barbara Dance Theater (SBDT), the professional dance company in residence at University of California, Santa Barbara, is a vibrant art enterprise with tremendous creative dynamism and impeccable performance standards.
On May 4th and 5th at 8pm in Santa Barbara’s historic Lobero Theater, SBDT will present NOW/EVER/MORE. Per SBDT’s reputation for range and excellence, this absorbing evening of dance will include three diverse premieres by critically lauded choreographers. The program will also include Cante Flamenco, an historic mid-century social protest classic by a venerated dance pioneer, and Chamber Fantasy, a new work by SBDT Artistic Director Christopher Pilafian.
Guest choreographer Andrea Giselle Schermoly, a South African by birth, has danced with the Boston Ballet Company and Netherlands Dance Theater, performing works by Jiri Kylian, Mats Ek, Paul Lightfoot/Sol Leon, Ohad Naharin, Hans van Manen, Alexander Ekman and others. As choreographer, she was twice awarded the “Outstanding Choreographer” award at Youth America Grand Prix and in 2014 was awarded the “Emerging Choreographer” grant to choreograph at Lincoln Center. Andrea Schermoly’s new work Hers is characterized by a highly-wrought physical vocabulary whose expressionism teases out distinct-yet-related facets of humanity and the individual [personality]. Andrea draws forth original, mature performances from three of SBDT’s women—Miche Wong, Nicole Powell, and Christina Sanchez—set to a haunting and beautiful score by Belgian composer Wim Mertens.
Guest choreographer David Maurice trained at the University of Arizona and has performed works by Donald McKayle, Charles Weidman and George Balanchine. He has performed with Ate9 Dance Company in Los Angeles and New York City, Luna Negra Dance Theatre in Chicago, and Loni Landon Dance Project in New York City, to name but a few. David’s new piece, Were it Not for Shadows, is, in essence, a choreographic confession. Drawing upon cultural ritual, societal norms and romantic notions as forces that impose limits on the sense of self, Maurice and SBDT’s dancers explore conflicts between “I,” “we” and “they.”
SBDT Artistic Director Christopher Pilafian has performed on stage, television and in film with choreographers Jennifer Muller, Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Charles Moulton, Matthew Diamond and others. He was awarded the Doris Humphrey Scholarship and the Louis Horst Fellowship at The Juilliard School. As founding member, principal dancer and Associate Artistic Director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, Pilafian performed in 11 NYC seasons and 10 international tours of Europe, The Middle East, North, Central and South America.
Christopher Pilafian’s Mystique (2017) premiered in January to rapturous audience response, and will be here presented anew. This work for nine women is inspired by Pilafian’s deep appreciation of the many female friends, teachers, partners, choreographers, artistic directors and colleagues who have influenced him throughout his life. Film composer Will Thomas created the mesmerizing score for the piece, and Mary Heebner’s striking artwork has been transmuted into scenic imagery by designer Michael Klaers. Ingrid Luna’s hand painted costumes complete the collaborative energy of the work. Pilafian’s newest piece Chamber Fantasy bubbles up from its source in a spirit of delight tinged with irony. Three dancers inhabit a space infused with anticipation and the melodic brilliance and melismatic thrills of Georg Frideric Handel’s music.
These performances at the Lobero Theater will also include an important and electrifying work by the famed dance artist, Jane Dudley, a contemporary of legendary dance modernist (and onetime Santa Barbara High School student) Martha Graham. A dancer in Graham’s company in the 1930s and 40s, Dudley created the powerful Cante Flamenco as a choreographic response to the Spanish Civil War, first performing it in 1944. As staged for SBDT by Nancy Colahan and performed by Ailey alumnus and SBDT company member Christina Sanchez, Cante Flamenco shines with a renewed relevance in this time of political stridency.
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