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Create an audience experience that raises questions, cultivates a focus on the humanistic elements of live performance, and fosters empathy that inspires viewers to manifest change in their communities. Such are the objectives of the choreographers behind “Within Existence | Existence Within,” a fall concert by the UC Santa Barbara Department of Theater and Dance.
Curating original and imaginative pieces in a holistic contemporary production, the show will debut December 1-3 at Hatlen Theatre. It features choreography by five senior dancers, each completing three years of dance curriculum, and teaching work by former Alvin Ailey dancer Christina Sanchez. Directed by Christina McCarthy, it is also the first performance of the season for the UCSB Dance Company.
Among the student choreographers, who have been experimenting with cutting-edge, modern rehearsal practices, is Bailey Dodgion. Her contemporary ballet work, “Experience,” uses fast-paced virtuoso and athletic movements juxtaposed against a mysterious duet that fades in and out throughout the piece.
“I like to be really in tune with how my dancers receive the movement,” Dodgion said. “I often ask them for a certain step and they add their own individuality to it, which further sparks my imagination.”
The same dancer-centric model is also exhibited by choreographer Jazz Hayes, who created the highly detailed, minimalist movement piece “Threshold, excerpt 2,” which traps dancers in a liminal space of transition between states of being. The dancers on stage sometimes evoke humans waiting and affecting each other and other times they evoke synaptic electricity that bounces off brain cells.
“My rehearsals are dancer-led and focus on what my dancers need from me for support or clarification about movement,” Hayes explained. “This allows my dancers to become more comfortable with the movement and the piece in general, as well as giving them more time to become familiar with the intricacies of the music.”
Additional student pieces in the concert include choreography by:
• Jaliana Apawan Semien, who starts from a place of exploration in movement of the vocabulary generated from the seven virtues and the seven sins. Using an expansive and visceral palette of movement, Semien’s work is ethereally connected to these sins and virtues. Dancers run through snapshots of interactions and energetic fragments of these states of being in a tug-of-war of grace and conflict.
• Leia Zorba, who connects with the seven archetypes of femininity to explore the ways in which feminine power has been undermined by restrictive stereotypical ideas and outdated notions about women. Zorba sees elements of control and limitation in these ways of understanding femininity and seeks to break our understanding of each person’s feminine self-definition.
• Dalya Modlin, whose work “Tethered” creates an atmosphere of memory, solitude and reflection, pairing individual dancers floating in a dreamlike state on one side of the stage, with a group of dancers flowing through a visceral rendition of emotion and I remember on the other side of the stage. The piece unfolds as a collage of images that blend into a stream of consciousness that relates to how memory comes and goes in our conscious and subconscious mind.
“Within Existence | Existence Within” runs December 1 and 2 at 7:30 pm and December 3 at 2 pm at Hatlen Theatre. Tickets and information are available through theaterdance.ucsb.edu, or by calling (805) 893-2064.