Thursday night was the last time UCSB’s senior dance majors performed as students of the Theater and Dance Department. Sophomore B.F.A. dance major Rachel Epling arrived fully prepared for the momentous day, with arms full of flowers and a purse containing ribbons, scissors and heartfelt handwritten notes. Though she should have been home writing a paper, Epling knew this performance was where she needed to be.
“These dancers have been a huge inspiration to me this year as a sophomore. They have helped me to grow as a dancer beyond words. To be able to be at their last performance as UCSB dance company dancers is an honor. Though I hate to see them leave, watching them dance as beautifully as they did, I know they will be going wonderful places.”
The Senior Company returned just a couple weeks ago from a tour in Europe where they performed their repertoire in cities such as Prague and Florence. Senior company dancer Sophia Larriva discovered on this tour the importance of communal energy amongst the company’s dancers. “You can never really fully prepare yourself to dance in the variety of places we performed … I didn’t have time to think about how nervous I was about the stage or any technical challenges we were facing that day, all I had time to prepare for was the performance itself and how to best warm up my body in the middle of a city square, a dusty backstage or a tiny hallway.” The company has been working with their repertoire for the entire year, and various pieces have been performed in a performance Winter Quarter and in the Spring Dance Concert this year.
Guest choreographer Genevieve Carson created Perpetuum, the opener of the show. The piece set a powerful tone for the rest of the performance with accentuated movement and group-work that showcased struggle and strength.
The disquiet of Perpetuum contrasted with the sedate, elegant beginning of Artifice, choreographed by faculty choreographer Jerry Pearson. Artifice was created in 1999, and is one of over 130 pieces Pearson has brought to professional stages around the world. This piece is the embodiment of multimedia, featuring a video, a plethora of large wooden branches, a small bonsai tree and confetti, amongst other things. Senior company dancer Monica Moe Mulvany was the central dancer of Artifice and interacted with each prop, including the video, with an ethereal grace.
The second half of the show began with a collaborative work created by faculty choreographer Nancy Colahan and composer William Pasley. Entitled Soaring in the Desert, with Clouds, Colahan and Pasley played with the idea of a desert thunderstorm, embodied through the sweeping, fluid movements of the dancers. Lighting effects and the incorporated sound of falling rain created a more tangible atmosphere for the dancers to work in. For a moment, the dancers turned their faces upward to feel the rain and the exhilaration on their faces required no suspension of disbelief to be convincing.
The final piece of the night was José Limón’s There is a Time, directed by Alice Condodina. There is a Time is based on Ecclesiastes 3:1-8 and there is a section of the dance dedicated to each of the following ideas:
To everything there is a season, and a time to every purpose under heaven;
A time to be born, and a time to die;
A time to plant, and a time to pluck up that which is planted;
A time to kill;
And a time to heal;
A time to keep silence, and a time to speak;
A time to mourn; and a time to weep;
A time to laugh … a time to dance;
A time to embrace, and a time to refrain from embracing;
A time to hate, a time of war;
A time to love … a time of peace.
Guest artist Darion Smith and student guest dancers Dante Corpuz and Mason Teichert joined the senior dance company to complete the cast for the piece. Larriva commented on the synergy of all the dancers performing There is a Time; “When we were performing [There is a Time], I felt the last four years of training intensively culminate in a magnificent moment in which we all were moving with the same tenuous string of energy, I felt connected to everyone on stage … UCSB has taught me to be an artist, to experience, feel, and be moved by what happens in the classroom and on stage.”