The UC Santa Barbara Dance Company and UC Irvine Etude Ensemble performed together on Friday, April 29, as part of the UCI/UCSB Dance Exchange at the UCSB Performance Studio. The concert highlighted the superb training of the dancers and fostered peer collaboration while fundraising for the UCSB Dance Company’s upcoming tour to Italy.
The UCSB Dance Company consists of a group of select Bachelor of Fine Arts dance majors, mostly seniors, who learn a varied dance repertoire and perform on tour in Southern California, and this year, in Italy and New York. Experiencing life on tour is crucial for aspiring professional dancers because it teaches them to adjust to different performance conditions while developing their artistic connection to the repertoire.
The UCI Etude Ensemble is similarly a touring company composed of top UCI dancers chosen by audition. The goal of the ensemble is to facilitate a seamless entry of the dancers into professional careers.
The UCI/UCSB Dance Exchange tradition began about 15 years ago. It was influenced by the professional ties of Delila Moseley, director of the UCSB Dance Company, and Donald McKayle, director of the UCI Etude Ensemble.
“I knew Delila because she was in my company in Los Angeles,” said McKayle.
According to Delila Moseley, the exchange program was started because it’s really easy to have an isolated situation in a university setting and the exchange is a mind-broadening experience for everyone involved. The dancers, the faculty and the audiences at both campuses greatly benefit from the exchange.
On Monday, April 25, the UCSB Dance Company traveled to UCI to perform in a combined concert and to take classes with UCI dance department faculty.
Laura Flanigan, fourth-year Dance major and History Minor, said that taking dance class at Irvine was different from what they typically do at UCSB and that it was nice to try something new. She particularly enjoyed getting to know her UCI dance peers and exchanging stories about what people’s plans are for after college. The performance was well received by the UC Irvine audience, according to Flanigan.
The UCI dance department is bigger than the UCSB program with a broader variety of classes offered, including ballet, modern, jazz, tap and world dances. The UCSB dance department is smaller, with technique training primarily focused on ballet and modern. It is supplemented by master classes in different disciplines from professional dance companies performing in Santa Barbara. The smaller size of the program allows for individualized attention from faculty and numerous performance opportunities for the dancers.
The exchange concert at UCSB featured six UCI performance pieces and two UCSB company pieces. Juxtaposed side by side, the performances clearly demonstrated that both programs produce beautiful, skilled and expressive dancers.
The standout performance by UCSB dancers was the powerful piece “God Gave Them Eyes for That” originally choreographed in 2001 and set on the student company this year by Dance and Theater Department faculty member Mira Kingsley. Among the UCI dances, most notable were those choreographed by McKayle, particularly the concluding number of the program, “Songs of the Disinherited.” Nancy Colahan, UCSB dance program faculty member, applauded “the sheer exuberance and joy” of Donald McKayle’s choreography.
The UCSB dancers exhibited lovely fluidity of movement, clarity of artistic intention and genuine expressiveness. The UCI dancers demonstrated great energy, beautiful lines and crystal-clear technique, with outstanding leaps.
“It is very wonderful to see peers’ work and see their performances,” McKayle said following the performance. “The training is good in both places. I was very moved [by the concert].”
The performance was followed by a cast party to celebrate the exchange and facilitate peer bonding, which may very well lead to future professional collaboration among these promising artists.