Dancer Melissa Ullom, Photo by Stuart K. McDaniel
ONSTAGE : Velvet overground – Betrayal, disaster and idealism emotionally compete in UCSB Dance Concert
By Ted Mills, News-Press Correspondent
November 30, 2007 10:12 AM
This weekend’s dance concert, “Through Darkness and Light,” not only marks the opening of the 2007-2008 season of student dance performances at UCSB, but is a send-off for a select group of dancers, under- and post-grads, as they make their way to Beijing for a special series of concerts. More on that later, though. The trip would not be happening if not for the work of the dancers and choreographers shown in the seven pieces this weekend.
The last time we saw faculty choreographer Valerie Huston’s work was a year ago with “Tête à Tête,” which shares some themes and ideas with her latest creation, “The Velvet Touch.” Like “Tête,” this work revisits an early version of the choreography and deals with two characters who may or may not be aspects of the same person.
“Betrayal is this work’s primary emotion,” Huston says up front. “I wanted to explore the farthest reach of those emotional points.”
Divided in five parts, “The Velvet Touch” ends in something murderous, and involves velvet opera gloves.
“This is a pretty violent work for me,” she says.
Set to five harp and violin duets by Jean Françaix, Huston’s piece employs classical ballet choreography, gestural movement, and plenty of handwork to emphasize the gloves.
Jerry Pierson, of Santa Barbara Dance Theater, saw the work in its earlier stage, and intends to bring it and other pieces to China, as a follow-up trip to Pierson’s company’s own journey there earlier in the year, where the entire group was overawed to find they were playing 2,500 seat halls with 150-foot stages (in both cases, by comparison, bigger than the Arlington Theatre).
Asked to bring a bigger company, Pierson is bringing the entire student company as well as members of his own. Asked to recommend another piece, Huston suggested “Stolen Time,” by guest choreographer Carley Conder, also in this weekend’s concert.
Set to lesser known works by Vivaldi, the Arizona-based Conder says the genesis of the idea came both from pop culture — the television drama “Lost” — and real life — the tsunami that hit southeast Asia in 2005.
“I’m interested in how people come back from a tragic event,” she says. “And how you deal with it . . . all those emotions: anger, rage, the feeling of community, solitude, and vulnerability.”
Conder works with fluidity of the upper body while employing ballet movement, and intends a liquidity and watery feeling to emerge through the eight dancers she employs in the work.
“I don’t usually get the chance to work in this style,” she says of the ballet language in the piece, “So this is a real treat.”
Elsewhere in the program, senior choreographers have their say in debut works. Sophia Formosa’s “Shrouded Awakening” springs from her viewing of Emilio Estevez’s “Bobby,” which details Robert Kennedy’s assassination in 1968.
“I’ve never experienced that kind of leadership in my generation,” Formosa says.
Set to fragments of Kennedy’s speeches and “The Sound of Silence,” “Shrouded Awakening” attempts to recreate a philosophy from the 1960s that Formosa thinks we need now.
“I wanted to go back beyond politics to where the seeds of misunderstanding and violence start,” she says. “I know it sounds idealistic, but I still like to think it could work.”
‘THROUGH DARKNESS AND LIGHT’
When: 8 tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m. Sunday
Where: UCSB’s Hatlen Theatre
Cost: $17, $13
Information: 893-7221, www.theaterdance.ucsb.edu