Seventy-five dancers, each barefoot, dressed in all white and carrying a simple white terracotta plate performed a ritualistic dance in Storke Plaza on Monday to celebrate peace and to mark the second anniversary of the May 23, 2014, shooting.
The UCSB Department of Theater and Dance, in conjunction with the Buglisi Dance Theatre of New York, performed the “Table of Silence Project,” a dance originally choreographed by Jacqulyn Buglisi, director of the Buglisi Dance Theatre. The hour-long ceremony was first performed at the Lincoln Center on the tenth anniversary of the Sept. 11 attacks.
The ritual honored the lives of Weihan Wang, Cheng Hong, George Chen, Katherine Cooper, Veronika Weiss and Christopher Michaels-Martinez, and simultaneously acted as a call and celebration for peace and unity.
The dancers moved in unison along circular patterns reminiscent of a mandala and culminated the ritual in a minute of silence, seated in concentric circles and their arms outstretched, palms facing up to the sky.
“Today we stop and remember these six students and celebrate their beautiful lives,” Chancellor Henry T. Yang said in his opening statement.
To memorialize the lives and contributions of the six students, Chancellor Yang presented six scholarships to current UCSB students prior to the Table of Silence performance. The student recipients were Lindsey Choate, Jennie Christensen, Aileen Fullchange, Joshua Ortiz, Taylor J. Stolzfus and Michael Teller.
“Each of these recipients reflects the character, passions, kindness, intelligence and ambition of the six students we lost, ensuring that they will always live on in UC Santa Barbara,” Yang said. “They are true leaders who have shown a deep commitment to their education and their community.”
According to Buglisi, the choreographer of the ritual, the dancers descended upon the plaza “forming patterns of concentric circles to create a Peace Labyrinth, seen as in ancient times.”
“As they form the Peace Labyrinth, they will bring out the mandala energy, symbolizing the eternity, purity and continuity of the life cycle,” Buglisi said. “Creating a ritual honoring our natural world around us, for peace and harmony.”
Patrick Lindley, principal musician of UCSB Theater and Dance, was the musical director for the Table of Silence Project. The dancers performed in collaboration with Azeem Ward on flute, William Pasley and Russ Glick on percussion, Emiliano Campobello on flute and conch shell, Margo Halstead on carillon and vocals provided by UCSB’s a cappella group Naked Voices.
In a closing statement, UCSB’s Chair of the Academic Senate Kum-Kum Bhavnani addressed those who passed away in remembrance.
“We feel, we hope, we trust that your souls are at peace,” Bhavnani said. “We will always remember you. Fiat lux, let there be light.”
[Update May 24, 2:00 p.m. : This article has been updated to include a full list of performers.]