To commemorate 38 years of being the residential professional dance company at University of California, Santa Barbara, the Santa Barbara Dance Theater presented Time in Motion, a three-part production, from Jan. 15 to Jan. 19. Christopher Pilafian, in his second year as artistic director, premiered “Smolder” and “Spark to Shine,” as well as the late Jose Limon’s “The Moor’s Pavane.”
Limon’s “The Moor’s Pavane” was reconstructed by Alice Condodina, the first director of the program, and Pilafian paid tribute to Condodina’s contribution to the company. He recounted how Limón’s masterpiece resonated with him after he saw “The Moor’s Pavane” as a teenager.
Pilafian attended Juilliard, where he was awarded the Doris Humphrey Scholarship and the Louis Horst Fellowship. Pilafian started at the Division of Dance at UCSB in 1990 and in 1999 was nominated for a UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award. His work has been performed in both resident dance companies of the Division of Dance, and throughout his worldwide tour. He has worked with a host of distinguished choreographers and artists.
The dancers included Tracy R. Kofford, Christina Sanchez, Monica Ford, Kyle Castillo, and newcomer Lindsay Mason. The program mixed a range of sounds, genres, and styles, with music from Rachmaninoff as well as some R&B. Described as contemporary ballet, Time in Motion is the program’s “leap forward” under the direction of Pilafian. His works feature graphic illusions and eccentric costumes, while the classic “The Moor’s Pavane” gives the audience a taste of tradition.
Based on Shakespeare’s “Othello,” “The Moor’s Pavane” tells the story of a vengeful man who wishes to get back at his King for promoting another man and also taking the woman he desired. By planting the Queen’s handkerchief on the gentleman who was promoted above him, the man turns the King against his wife. Only after the King murders her does the truth surface, and the King then stabs himself in sorrow. The music was by Henry Purcell and arranged by Simon Sadoff.
“Smolder,” a premiere of Pilafian’s work, depicts the pain of unrequited love with music by Rachmaninoff. As the dancers rotated their partners, there was an air of hesitation and longing. There was a constant sequence of attentions being diverted as dancers would look back as they were begrudgingly pulled in another direction.
The mood was elevated with “Spark to Shine.” The eccentrically-costumed dancers were placed against a backdrop of floating balloons, and the scene seemed to depict child’s play. One dancer mimed being pulled away by the bunch of balloons she was holding, while others were joyfully pushed along in a shopping cart. A song by Earth, Wind & Fire played, which stirred the audience and gave a positive, conclusive vibe.
SBDT showcases an annual season and happens to be the longest continually operating contemporary dance company in the area, as most schools do not have their own professional dance company. SBDT began as Repertory-West Dance Company under Condodina, and then was directed by Jerry Pearson from 1991 to 2011. Since the company’s establishment in 1976, it has toured in Ireland, Korea, China, and the Czech Republic.
University artists work with SBDT residents to foster the education of those interested in professional dance companies. In fact, four of the dancers in the company are UCSB alumni. For more information about upcoming shows, visit SBDT’s website at www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu.