Wednesday, July 18 , 2018, 4:41 am | Overcast 64º


Review: American Dance & Music Gets ‘Up Close & Cultural’

Sunday afternoon’s Dance: Up Close & Cultural was the third annual instance of this free community performance. Held at the Carrillo Recreation Center Ballroom, it was both educational and entertaining, offering a variety of dance styles and highlighting the various facets of this innovative dance entity, American Dance & Music.

In 2005, Artistic Director Carrie Diamond founded Ballet Santa Barbara. Since renamed American Dance & Music, the organization has expanded beyond ballet and now includes a performance group, adult dance classes and Moving to Learn, an in-school education program for elementary schoolchildren.

Susan Alexander and her adult students provided a casual opening to the show, easing into performance mode by demonstrating warm-ups and teaching techniques used in their modern dance class.

Next was a Moving to Learn demonstration with kindergarten students from Cleveland Elementary School, led by instructor Jessica Hambright and Diamond. The children did simple choreography and a structured improvisation. Seeing the joy and concentration on their faces, as well as the individuality of their movements, was a delight.

AD&M’s performance group then took the stage with three pieces choreographed by Diamond. The trio titled “Winter,” elegantly and athletically performed by Jekyns Palaez, Sally Schuiling and Megan Stanek, is an excerpt from a longer work, “Wisperfal.” AD&M Music Director Eric Valinsky accompanied with his original music on keyboard.

“Haringduet” is based on the iconic artwork of Keith Haring, artist and social activist. Clad in whimsical black and white stripes, Palaez and Rachel Hernandez evoke elements of West African, samba and modern dance, with a definite acrobatic feel and a hint of competition.

Diamond, Schuiling and Stanek then presented the world premiere of “Jumble,” fluid and graceful, accompanied by Valinsky’s original composition, again played live.

Guest artist Mari Sandoval performed a classical Spanish dance, “Capriccio Espagnol,” with castanets and fast footwork — fiery and reserved at the same time.

Hernandez returned with her company and an Afro-Brazilian dance to live drumming and music by Philip Hernandez, Dana Maman and Valinsky. The rhythm and energy of the dance were infectious, and audience members could be seen bobbing in their seats along with the dancers.

A question-and-answer session led by Diamond followed the performances, and then guests were invited to join Hernandez’s company in a rousing samba dance before enjoying a reception with snacks and refreshments.

AD&M is doing an admirable job of making dance accessible to community members of all ages. Take the opportunity to benefit from its classes and future performances, and enjoy another gem in Santa Barbara’s rich cultural atmosphere.

— Justine Sutton is a Santa Barbara freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer. The opinions expressed are her own.

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