Galaxy of Dance: HHII Dance Fest promises three days of new and recent work

"Sand Into Glass" is performed by Nebula Dance Lab. Daniel Wade photo
“Sand Into Glass” is performed by Nebula Dance Lab.
Daniel Wade photo

It’s spring, the season of dance, and the fields of March are blooming with the human form in beautiful motion. We’ve had aerial dance at the Lobero, shows from Santa Barbara Dance Arts, visits from Hart Pulse and the world famous Joffrey Ballet. It’s time to finish the month with the first installment of our own homegrown dance festival, HHII.

Devyn Duex is the woman behind this three-day festival taking over the Center Stage Theater this whole weekend, and the name HHII is a sly nod to Ms. Duex’s Nebula Dance Lab company: HHII is a star-forming region in the galaxy. “And star-forming – we thought that was perfect.”

"Ladies in Waiting," Watson Dance Kathleen Helm photo
“Ladies in Waiting,” Watson Dance
Kathleen Helm photo
The three days include dance works by 20 companies and/or choreographers with a total of 75 artists taking part. Some are coming in from Iowa, New York City and all over California, along with many Santa Barbara-based dancers.

Misa Kelly of ArtBark has included Nebula in her own dance festivals in town, but when it didn’t look like Ms. Kelly would hold a festival this year, Ms. Duex stepped in.

“This fits in with Nebula’s vision to go beyond what our professional company does and support emerging choreographers and artists,” she says. “This is also an opportunity for other artists to be enriched and have a place to show their work, when it’s so expensive out there to show their work on a professional level. It’s very hard to get to that next step.”

Santa Barbara companies include Matt Nelson’s BodySensate Contemporary Dance, Nebula Dance Lab, SELAH Dance Collective and The Dance Network, along with works by Tonia Shimin and Weslie Ching. Los Angeles companies include Josh Romero’s FUSE Modern Dance Company, Louise Reichlin & Dancers, Project21 Dance, Rubans Rouges Dance Company, Strickly Addikcted Dance Theater and Watson Dance, with Jessica Kondrath’s The Movement, Keith Johnson/Dancers and Rebecca Bryant Danceworks coming up from Long Beach. Michelle Tara Lynch (an ex-Nebula dancer) from New York and Anna Krupp will be performing as well, along with San Francisco’s Kendra Pearson and Los Angeles’ Kelly Todd.

The three programs contain all kinds of styles and all kinds of time limits, from three-minute works to full 25-minute works. Says Ms. Duex, “We wanted to leave the space for longer works if we saw something that felt right.” Jessica Kondrath’s The Movement is one of the few companies during this festival with three different pieces (and one of them being a long work) over the three different programs.

Some highlights of the program include FUSE’s “Tread,” which features dancers interacting with a series of rolling tires; Tonia Shimin is screening two dance films; Christina Sanchez (former Alvin Ailey member) is dancing a brand-new work; Kendra Pearson will be performing a flamenco-inspired work; The Dance Network will present the only tap work in the festival; and Weslie Ching is the only artist whose work will be featured in all three programs.

Three days in one location is a modest beginning: Ms. Duex would love the festival to branch out into different venues in the future and incorporate live music, installations, workshops and classes.

The festival attracted companies because of the lack of places to perform outside their own spaces and, apart from the entertainment it will provide the viewer, it provides lots of great networking for the artists.

“It’s about reaching out beyond your sphere and starting new collaborations,” she says. “It’s a chance to meet and share and play.”

HHII Dance Festival
When: 7 p.m. tonight and Saturday, 2 p.m Sunday
Where: Center Stage Theater, Paseo Nuevo
Cost: $16-$21; three-day festival pass $55-$65
Information: (805) 963-0408,

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