While many students are sitting in lecture halls or the library learning about philosophical truths, mathematical equations and the like, a group of students stands in the wings of the Hatlen Theater stage clothed in warm-ups, leotards and Ugg boots, awaiting the dress rehearsal of their annual Fall Dance Concert. In a few minutes, lithe frames of lean, sinewy muscle will emerge from the masses of clothing the dancers wear to keep warm in the cold space of the Hatlen, and begin the final run before a culmination of the quarter’s work takes place before a full audience.
This weekend, Theatre UCSB and the Division of Dance present “Seven Stories High,” a repertory of works by dance faculty members Nancy Colahan, Valerie Huston and concert director Stephanie Nugent, alongside pieces by senior B.F.A. students Sidnie Charnaw, Aviva Nan-Tabachnik, Erin Martinez and Ariel Wilkins. For the student choreographers, the concert marks one of the major highlights in their curriculum as dance majors at UCSB.
“It’s been a real experience,” said Martinez, a fifth-year dance and art studio major. “It’s really interesting to come up with an idea and then have all these people coming together to make this one idea work, and then have it become their idea, too … It’s exciting to see your one little kernel become this huge ordeal.”
Over 30 dancers were cast in the show’s seven pieces. In addition to their regular daily ballet and modern dance classes, the dancers in each piece rehearsed three times a week for two hour segments over the course of the quarter’s first eight weeks – a seemingly short amount of time, considering the many aspects of production needing to come together harmoniously at the quarter’s end.
“In some ways, it’s not a whole lot of time because the choreographers need a whole lot of it, but with the students’ schedules and the choreographers’ schedules, it becomes pretty packed in,” Nugent said.
But somehow, everyone – the dancers, choreographers, costume designers, lighting designers and crew -manages to pull it off, and the end result is a splendidly diverse collection of pieces with themes running from altered states of consciousness to relationships to memory and loss.
The concert’s opening piece, “Mindscapes,” choreographed by Nan-Tabachnik, takes the audience through a drug-induced mental state through abstract movement. Moments of hallucination, surreal sensations, dizzying highs and slow-motion lows phase in and out of the piece, absorbing the audience into a warped reality of its own.
Nugent’s piece, titled “Faster Than That,” examines the concept of time and how it affects our daily lives. “Some people are constantly moving through their lives at a fast pace and others are kind of more laid-back and go with the flow. Both of these qualities have their positive and negative attributes,” Nugent said. The piece’s juxtaposition of frenzied footwork and graceful adagio make for a visually stunning experience.
The rest of the program’s pieces fall delightfully all over the miraculous spectrum of artistic creation. “We all came in there with really different ideas, and I think that everything is so different – the lighting, the costumes,” Martinez said. “We’ve all been able to take the training we’ve received and make something better and make it our own. I think that’s really special.”
“Seven Stories High” runs Nov. 19 and 20 at 8 p.m. and Nov. 21 at 2 p.m. Admission is $17 for general admission and $13 for students, seniors and staff. Tickets are available at the Arts & Lectures box office or by calling (805) 893-3535.