American Dance & Music returns after five years, bringing a classic

 American Dance & Music performance group dancers Melody Collins and Darion Smith perform "Pastorale" to Beethoven's Pastorale Sonata, with live accompaniment by AD&M music director Eric Valinsky during this weekend's "Turkish by Matisse & Other Delights" at The New Vic. David Bazemore

American Dance & Music performance group dancers Melody Collins and Darion Smith perform “Pastorale” to Beethoven’s Pastorale Sonata, with live accompaniment by AD&M music director Eric Valinsky during this weekend’s “Turkish by Matisse & Other Delights” at The New Vic.
David Bazemore

Dancers grow and leave the stage. They become choreographers, some of them, and those who do often pass down their history and heritage to their star pupils. When the American Dance & Music company hits the stage today (and tomorrow) at the New Vic, they are bringing a piece that has been handed down twice, and that gives its name to this collection of four works.

“Turkish by Matisse” was originally created by Mari Sandoval in 1976, then passed down to AD&M founder Carrie Diamond, who was at that time Ms. Sandoval’s student at Santa Monica High School. Now Ms. Diamond is passing it on herself to AD&M’s Nikki Pfeiffer, who dances it this evening.

“I would not be a choreographer if it weren’t for Mari,” says Ms. Diamond. “She was a very serious teacher, and serious about inspiring that spark of creativity.”

There’s one more person in this story. The late legendary ballet dancer and instructor Carmelita Maracci provided the impetus for Mari Sandoval, when Maracci gave an assignment to her students: create a dance with a fan. Maracci was thinking of the Spanish fan, but Ms. Sandoval instead decided on a Turkish fan, and thinking of Matisse’s odalisque.

“She fell in love with the piece; she was astounded,” Ms. Sandoval remembers. Her teacher was also not expecting the score to be Igor Stravinsky, which audiences will hear tonight — his “Three Pieces for String Quartet” makes the perfect, dissonant backdrop for this challenging “heirloom piece.”

“I didn’t intend to go against the grain; I was just in love with things from the Middle East. I was inspired and there it was,” Ms. Sandoval recalls. “I felt I wasn’t responsible for it; it came to me, it just happened.”

After Ms. Sandoval passed the dance onto Ms. Diamond, the two didn’t work together for 30 years. The former, ironically, became involved with flamenco. The latter made her way to New York for a dance career, then later started Ballet Santa Barbara in 2005, changing the name to American Dance & Music in 2006. Its most recent show was 2010.

Ms. Diamond kept AD&M busy when it took its leave of absence from the Santa Barbara stage, working with schools, bringing in guests and being artistically active behind the scenes. The reason for the break is “complicated,” she says. But there was that sense last year that the company was getting far away from its original mission, and that her work and that of others was getting stronger.

“It takes a lot of time to figure out what you’re doing,” she says. “It took time to not be bound by music, to not just slap music on a work. . . I didn’t want to be a slave to music.”

That process started in 2010 with Ms. Diamond’s own “Wisperfal,” which she choreographed silently, then got her husband, collaborator and composer Eric Valinsky, to score the piece.

That way of working informs “Jumble” from 2013, which features Juliana Bertelsen , Melody Collins and Sally Schuiling . On the other hand, the world premiere of Ms. Diamond’s “Pastorale” is set to Beethoven’s Sonata Op. 28 (aka “The Pastorale Sonata”). Both feature live music from Mr. Valinsky.

Finally on the program is “Elements of Permutation,” by Nathan Cottam , set to “Variazioni Op. 24 for Violin and Guitar” by Mauro Giuliani. It is a set of four duets danced by Ms. Collins, Ms. Schuiling, Ms. Bertelsen and Darion Smith.

Ms. Diamond reunited with Ms. Sandoval in 2013 through the magic of Facebook. By 2014, the two met and set about re-creating “Turkish,” with Ms. Diamond performing it live at a community event. Now she’s passing it on.

“That’s what it’s all about in the large scale of dance. But on a small scale, passing down this personal piece is unique. It’s not a work that looks like anything that’s coming out today. It’s a piece that deserves to live on, and I feel honored to have brought this piece back and have it in our repertory.”

“Turkish by Matisse & Other Delights”
When: 2 and 8 p.m. tonight, 8 p.m. Saturday
Where: The New Vic, 33 W. Victoria St.
Cost: $18-$23; matinee $15-$18
Information: (805) 450-7535,

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