Sunday, July 22 , 2018, 6:39 am | Fair 63º


Review: Dance Tour Nourishes Body and Soul

Shiroun Dance Company is raising money to fight hunger worldwide

A small audience at Center Stage Theater on Tuesday night was fortunate enough to witness a stunning evening of professional-level dance by five young women who can best be described as gifted, creative and very generous. Not only do they give of their talented and beautiful dancing selves onstage, but the members of Oregon-based Shiroun Dance Company are raising money with a West Coast tour, titled “Nourish Through Movement,” to fight hunger worldwide.

Associated with the Nu Skin cosmetic company, Shiroun (scramble it a bit and it spells “nourish”) has the expenses of its tour underwritten so that all proceeds from each $22 ticket go to international aid organizations distributing VitaMeal packs to undernourished children. Each pack feeds a child one balanced, nutritious meal per day for a month.

The cause is admirable, but can they dance? Holy Capezio, can they ever! Add to the above adjectives poised, inventive, playful and bursting with energy. These five young women danced an evening-long program of demanding pieces with casual grace and fierce intensity. All have performed professionally, and most have taught dance.

Co-artistic directors Kristina Walker and Kymberly Kellems (who also dances in the company) choreographed 10 out of the 11 numbers in the show, with collaboration from the dancers on some, and the final one is by company member Jackie Nowicki.

Before each piece, over the darkened stage, was a quote from the book Aspire by Kevin Hall. A few were original by the author, but most were famous inspirational words by such notable sources as E.E. Cummings, Albert Schweitzer and Joseph Campbell. This worked well to give the audience members a few moments at the start of each piece to reflect on the words and prepare for the next visual treat.

From West African-inspired movement and music heavy with drums in “Ollin” to the hauntingly lovely “Beauty is Fearless” to 1950s-style pop sweetness in “Love in My Heart,” they moved easily from lighter, quirky pieces to those with depth of emotion and expression.

“Another Position” had the dancers involved in some of the most fresh and original partnering and physical interplay I’ve seen. One dancer launched herself at another from a dead run, only to be caught fluidly in her partner’s arms, wrapping around her body. Their movements looked spontaneous and joyful, and they seem to have found completely new ways for bodies to move and interact.

“Follow Your Nature,” danced to a beautiful mix of two different cover versions of the Beatles’ “Blackbird,” was compelling and visually exquisite.

Perhaps the biggest contrast in styles was in two numbers appearing back-to-back. The closing number of the first half was straight-up hip-hop — complete with hoodies, track pants and attitude — to the delight of many young women in the audience, who hooted and cheered.

After the intermission we heard, “He who holds a lantern to light the pathway of his brother sees more clearly his own.” And the dancers walked onto the darkened stage holding flashlights, which provided the only light in the entire piece as they moved them over faces and other body parts or set them down to light from below. It was refreshing and delightful.

In all of their dances, their unison movement was sharply synchronized and freer moments were soaring and singular. Obviously well-rehearsed and experienced, these dancers were a pleasure to watch, accomplishing that all-important feat: making it look easy. And that ain’t easy.

The company also is conducting master classes in the cities it visits, and will teach a class for Pamela Lappen’s SBCC dance students Thursday afternoon. Shiroun’s tour continues to Los Angeles and the San Diego area in the next few weeks, and later this summer it will be returning to some venues in Northern California bringing them back for an encore.

While I wish we had had a larger audience for them, those of use who were there count ourselves as lucky to have witnessed this spectacular evening of dance for such a good cause. Perhaps if we ask nicely enough, they will come back and Santa Barbara will have another opportunity to experience Shiroun’s unique approach to nourishing both body and soul.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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