Dancing robots, a world-renowned cellist and an Orwellian future with a Fosse flair were just a few of the pieces presented this past weekend at the UCSB spring dance concert, “Breakthrough.” Expertly choreographed and executed by UCSB students and faculty, each piece had a different feel while maintaining a connection through the medium of modern dance.
A truly standout piece was “Anemone” featuring a solo dancer Melissa Ullom and cellist Gianna Abondolo. The cello and lyrical-style dancing complemented each other wonderfully, creating a very emotional piece.
My personal favorite was “Menace to Society,” which utilized an industrial setting and tracks from bands A Perfect Circle and Nine Inch Nails. Clad in trench coats, fedoras, jazz sneakers and carrying white-tipped canes, the female dancers looked like they were thrown into 1984 as designed by Bob Fosse. Contrasting the themes of individuality and conformity through unison of movement, the piece was well-executed by the dancers, who even went up on pointe in their jazz shoes – a difficult feat without the arch support of traditional ballet pointe shoes. The lighting design worked to complement the piece, as the corps dancers were lit so that they appeared as silhouettes behind the soloist.
“Apocalypse, Please” also featured an interesting lighting technique, as the lighting rig was lowed beneath the curtain, making it appear as if an alien spaceship was landing in the post-apocalyptic setting. The movements were sometimes jarring, but when the dozen dancers moved in unison, the choreography was gripping.
Similarly, “Pendulum” featured some occasionally disjointed movements, though the dancers were emotionally connected to the piece and conveyed that emotion well. When the dancers moved together, their timing was spot-on and it strengthened the piece. The dance also contained many double turns, which were accented by the double-layer skirts of their costumes that trailed after them as they spun around the stage.
Kyle Castillo and Lindsay Slavik performed in “Crossing Paths,” a flirty piece that used a large quantity of lifts and jumps, emphasizing the idea that love is like being in the clouds. Castillo’s jumps were quite impressive, as he achieved surprising altitude.
The solo piece was “Vicissitudes,” danced by Tanya Rice at the Saturday evening performance I attended. The first half of the piece featured the use of a scrim curtain in front of the stage, which gave the whole number a very ethereal look. Her dancing was very fluid and emotionally resonant as she conveyed her struggles through her dancing.
The final piece, “Circuits,” was performed by members of the UCSB dance company dressed as robots. The piece was fun, with the peppy movements of the robot dancers even inspiring giggles from the audience.
The pieces were connected through the influence of modern dance forms, but each was refreshingly different from the next. I was not disappointed by any performance, and this show can be chalked up as my favorite spring dance concert yet.