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Review: Seniors Take Center Stage for UCSB Dance Co.‘s End-of-Year Show

There is an exhilarating sense of anticipation around the annual end-of-year show by the UCSB Dance Company, under the direction of Delila Moseley and offered May 28-29 at Center Stage Theater.

These graduating seniors have come through a rigorous four-year program as dance majors and have been provided with extensive experience as a pre-professional company, including international touring — this group just returned from Italy. It is exciting to imagine how their careers will unfold as they go on into the professional dance world.

There was also plenty of excitement to the here-and-now of the evening, with works by student, faculty and guest choreographers, and the 11 talented and highly trained young dancers bursting with energy, with forward momentum.

The program started with “The Trancing Way” by faculty member Nancy Colahan. The entire company gamboled together, reminiscent of animals at a desert watering hole, graceful and playful. The final pose by one dancer, spread-armed, on one leg, brought to mind a lone tree on the Savannah. The overall effect was mesmerizing and joyful.

“Still Waters Run Deep” was created by company member Hillary Bassoff, for six dancers. This piece employs moody lighting and creative use of levels, with dancers rolling on the floor and others leaping over them. One memorable tableau had some dancers moving low and on the floor downstage, while Wilson Vu sprang into incredible split leaps above them.

By guest artist Colin Connor, “Corvidae” is noted in the program to be “inspired by the ferocity and mystery of crows and ravens.” This piece was haunting, evocative of the swirl and flow of flock dynamics. Repeated hand gestures by the dancers were an intriguing blend of tortured and sinister. The costuming, by Connor and Moseley, was brilliant — all dancers were dressed in black but each in different, quirky variations — fringe, lace, a tail coat with sleeves cut off. The effect was stunning, and truly did bring to mind these mysterious birds.

Alexandra Beller and the dancers created “This is where it ended,” an intriguing work weaving together ritualistic gestural movements and rhythmic stomping with inventive floor work, partnering and lifts. The costuming was unusual — winter whites, sweaters, knit onesies — and added to the slightly otherworldly ambience.

“Serpentine Spark” is an excerpt from “Spark to Shine” by Christopher Pilafian, director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater. In bold red, black and white costuming, seven dancers strutted and shimmied to Earth Wind & Fire’s iconic Serpentine Fire — joyful, funky and fun.

“Songs for Chile” is a modern dance masterwork from former José Limón dancer Lucas Hoving. Created in 1981, it “commemorates the courage of the Chilean people during their endurance of the military takeover 40 years ago.” Alice Condodina directed the piece, reconstructing it along with Tonia Shimin — the two performed together as original cast members — and Moseley. The entire company embraced the spirit of the piece, and whether in groups, duets or solos, honored the memory of this difficult sacrifice.

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

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