Christopher Pilafian

Headshot of Professor Pilafian
Studio Professor Emeritus

Contact Phone


Office Location

HSSB 1107


Studio Professor & Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater

The Juilliard School

Interlochen Arts Academy 

Christopher Pilafian (Choreographer, Educator, Dance Artist, Visual Artist), has danced on stage, television and in film with choreographers Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Charles Moulton, Louis Falco, Matthew Diamond, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Pearl Lang, Elizabeth Keene, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Kathryn Posin and many others. In New York, after attending The Juilliard School, where he was awarded both the Doris Humphrey Scholarship and the Louis Horst Fellowship, Mr. Pilafian became a founding member, principal dancer and Associate Artistic Director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, touring throughout Europe, The Middle East, North, Central and South America from 1974 to 1989. He has created over 40 dance works including commissions for Princeton University, Dance Kaleidoscope, Jennifer Muller/The Works, Repertory-West Dance Company, Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, Interplay, San Diego Dance Theater and soloists Nancy Colahan and Danah Bella. His works have been premiered in venues as diverse as The Joyce Theatre, New York City; Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France; Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis; New Performance Gallery, San Francisco; The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles; The Alex Theater, Glendale; Ohio State University and The California Center for the Arts, Escondido. 

In 1990 Mr. Pilafian joined the faculty of the Division of Dance (re-named Department of Theater and Dance) at UC Santa Barbara where many of his choreographi cworks have  been performed in the repertories of the program's two resident dance companies. Five works have appeared at the American College Dance Festival: Dance for an Unknown Occasion, In the Ellasphere, Pop Rondo (Honorable Mention), Heebiejeebie (Gala Performance) and What's Cool. Mr. Pilafian served as Artistic Director and choreographer of Points of Departure, an evening-length collaborative work presented by Santa Barbara Dance Alliance at the Lobero Theatre. He has served as panelist for the California Arts Council, SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara and Santa Barbara Dance Alliance. Mr. Pilafian's Artifact, was performed by Jennifer Muller/The Works in May 2000 at the Joyce Theatre in New York City. From 2001 to 2004 he collaborated with dramatist Catherine Cole to create Five Foot Feat, a dance theater piece that premiered at Santa Barbara's Center Stage Theater to critical and popular acclaim, and was performed at UCSB's Hatlen Theatre, at the Association of Performing Arts Presenters in New York City and on tour internationally. Mr. Pilafian's work Thin Skins, with music by UCSB composer Joel Feigin, was premiered by Santa Barbara Dance Theatre in 2002 followd by an extended version in 2004. Some of its Parts, constituting half of an evening commissioned by and for Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater under the rubric The Pilafian Project/ Atlantic Man, premiered in 2003 at the beautiful California Center for the Arts, Escondido. In 2005, his Andante Tranquillo, featuring an all male cast, premiered at UCSB's Hatlen Theatre. Mr. Pilafian served as Vice Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, and Director of Dance 2011-2015. He also became Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater in 2011. In addition to the 10 works he created for SBDT between 1991 and 2011, he has continued to choreograph new works for the company beginning with a full-evening work, A Leap of Faith (2013) and followed by Smolder (2014), Spark to Shine (2014), Strange Attractor (2016), Mystique (2017), Chamber Fantasy (2017) and Toggle (2018). He has commissioned new works from gifted guest choreographers and heritage works by José Limón and Jane Dudley. Also a visual artist, Mr. Pilafian has exhibited his work at the Faulkner Gallery in Penumbrae, a one-person show (2003) and at SoHo Gallery & Restaurant in a two-person show, Dancing on the Wall (2005). 

Students of Mr. Pilafian's have gone on to full scholarships at major universities including NYU's Tisch School of the Arts, and have been selected to join successful dance companies, including Momix, Rioult, Sarah Pearson Dance Company, Cleo Parker Robinson, Jennifer Muller/The Works, John Malashock Dance, Nicholas Leichter Dance Company, Jean Isaacs' San Diego Dance Theater, Shen Wei Dance Arts and others. In 1999 he was nominated for a UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award.