Santa Barbara Dance Theater’s 40th Season: Incorporating the Past, Envisioning the Future

Image courtesy of Santa Barbara Dance Theatre

Lacy Wright

To celebrate its fortieth anniversary, the Santa Barbara Dance Theater will be performing works by not only its current artistic director, Christopher Pilafian, but also works by the two most recent directors and a guest choreographer who’s previously worked with SBDT. Jerry Pearson (1991-2011) and Alice Condodina (1976-1990) both previously served as artistic directors for the Santa Barbara Dance Theater and were asked to choreograph works for the fortieth season.

Three years in the making, this performance, in some ways, encapsulates the history of SBDT through the distinct style of each director. Current Artistic Director Christopher Pilafian invited the previous artistic directors to create works for this show, acknowledging that although each had their own unique style and influences, each choreographer’s work will “reflect their longstanding love of the medium,” unifying their works into one cohesive show.

One of Pilafian’s many influences are the new ideas forged through collaboration. “When two or more with deep-seated personal distinctions meet in a space of open, creative engagement, synergy may arise like that which made this show a reality,” Pilafian said.

The other work being performed is also deeply rooted in collaboration: “Common Ground,” which was choreographed by Edgar Zendejas, is a collaboration between SBDT, State Street Ballet and Detroit’s Eisenhower Dance. The highly successful collaboration serves to demonstrate the uniqueness of each company while unifying them through the language of dance.

This fortieth anniversary reflects more than evolution and the history of the company; it also reflects Pilafian’s hope for future performance. Watching the program evolve since he began teaching at the University of California, Santa Barbara in 1990, this artistic director hopes that future performances will emphasize “the adventure of the new while acknowledging and honoring our history as an art form.”

Additionally, this performance not only showcases the talents of the dance department faculty, but it also acts as an inspiration to current dance and theater majors. The Santa Barbara Dance Theater is currently the only professional dance company in residence at any UC and one of few nationally. Thus, an opportunity to view such a performance is unique to UCSB and particularly inspiring to current dance majors, some of whom may be recruited to the company after graduation. According to Pilafian, several alumni were able to launch their careers by starting as company members.

The Santa Barbara Dance Theater will have five performances running from Jan. 20 to 24 at Hatlen Theater. Don’t miss this rare opportunity to see such a unique set of works performed together.