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Review: Santa Barbara Dance Alliance ‘On the Verge’ of Something Big

Annual event showcases the impressive skills and talents of student choreographers

There are plenty of youth dance recitals this time of year choreographed by adults, costumed by adults, and produced and promoted by adults. “On the Verge” is an annual teen dance show presented by the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance, and at first glance may seem to be just another “dance recital.”

The unique beauty of this program is that in the six weeks leading up to the show, these teens — billed as “Future Choreographers of America” — are each guided by an adult mentor to take on all of the above aspects of presenting their show. Not only do they feel the satisfaction of accomplishment, they gain valuable skills preparing them for careers in dance.

This year’s offering, last Saturday at the Marjorie Luke Theatre in Santa Barbara, showcased an impressive number of talented local teens performing a wide variety of styles, from classical ballet and flamenco to modern and retro whimsy. A young man named Christian “C Rush” Pearson even performed a polished original rap song encouraging the avoidance of drugs.

Pablo Gatica, 15, opened the show with a dynamic solo he created. He blended popping and locking with lyrical and expressive movement, and his interpretation of the music was mesmerizing.

Robin Zelko, an alumna of the program, returned to perform a contemporary modern solo she choreographed. Zelko is a talented, powerful and poised dancer with a creative flair — hers is surely a name to look for in the future.

Reaching back to old-world traditions, Thomas Salgado created a flamenco piece for himself and Maria Salgado. First appearing solo onstage, he exhibited a smoldering intensity and precise footwork. He was then joined by his partner, and the two engaged in playful competition with plenty of attitude.

Louisa Vanhecke created and performed a contemporary ballet solo that was elegant, graceful and lyrical. She projects confidence but also a refreshingly pure and innocent quality.

Dramatically different from other offerings of the evening, Russ Glick and Sophia Phillips presented an arresting aerial dance of their own creation. Twisting and floating above the stage, suspended by silks — long swaths of fabric — they seemed to represent the archetypal male and female figures while at the same time calling forth a fully current aesthetic.

Tess Brennan choreographed a piece for herself and Stephen Fambrio that was nostalgic and charming. To “Blueberry Hill” the two cavorted in casual, 1950s-era clothing, evoking the give and take of flirtation and blossoming romance.

One of the highlights of the evening was Jackie Botts’ contemporary ballet solo. A truly gifted dancer and choreographer, she demonstrated a flowing movements style along with a contemplative and winsome air.

The leaders and young dancers from the performance troupe of Everybody Dance Now! brought the show to a rousing finish with a joyful and energetic group hip-hop number. The exuberance and enthusiasm these young people display is heartening to see, as it foretells another generation of dedicated dancers carrying on this expressive art form.

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

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