Think of the color red — arresting, inciting, powerful. A sexy red dress. A matador’s cape. The ruby slippers.
Santa Barbara Dance Theater, the professional dance company in residence at UC Santa Barbara, presents “Time in Motion,” including two new works by artistic director Christopher Pilafian inspired by this iconic color.
The first, “Smolder,” is red in all its fiery intensity and passion — vivid, hypnotic, dreamy. The music, by Sergei Rachmaninoff, is in turn flowing and sternly dramatic. The dancers, Kyle Castillo, Monica Ford, Tracy Ray Kofford, Lindsay Mason and Christina Sanchez, are fluid and filled with grace. They manage to appear seasoned yet fresh, wise yet innocent.
“Spark to Shine” gives us the lighter side of red — a circus, a party, balloons. Here, red is sassy, playful and celebratory. The red inflatable cushions hanging as a backdrop look like giant cherry candies, shiny and inviting. Music by Earth, Wind & Fire feeds the party vibe and the dancers are clearly having fun.
Joining them are four members of the UCSB Dance Company, who weave their way in and out, adding to the festivities.
In addition to these hot-off-the-press pieces, the evening’s program is balanced with a recreation of modern dance pioneer José Limón’s most famous work, “The Moor’s Pavane.” First performed in 1949, SBDT’s version is directed and was reconstructed by Alice Condodina, who was a principal dancer with Limón’s company and is internationally recognized as a Limón Master Artist. She was also the founding artistic director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater in 1976 and was a professor at UCSB for 19 years.
Subtitled “Variations on the Theme of Othello,” the piece features Kofford, Castillo, Sanchez and Ford as the Moor, his treacherous friend, and their wives. The pavane is a dance of the high Renaissance, and costuming by Pauline Lawrence beautifully reflects this period, with flowing velvets and rich colors.
The choreography highlights Limón’s influence on the role of the male dancer, bringing the men to the forefront, with the women in supporting roles. The dancers do a beautiful job of portraying the complex drama unfolding among these four characters while embracing the movement, which seems at once classic and contemporary.
Last year, Pilafian took the reins from Jerry Pearson, who had ably directed the company for 20 years. Here, Pilafian demonstrates an infusion of new energy, offering a rich evening of material both historic and fresh, with something to appreciate on every level. This strong start to his second season indicates that great things will continue to come from Santa Barbara Dance Theater in its new incarnation.
Shows are this Friday and Saturday at 8 p.m. and Sunday at 2 p.m. in UCSB’s Hatlen Theater. Click here for tickets.
— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.