Somebody back in the mists of time – maybe it was a teacher – said, “There is no such thing as a stupid question.” It’s in this spirit of feedback and inquisitiveness that Weslie Ching has started up the Crit series at Center Stage Theater. This free event is a chance for performance arts fans and the curious to see five new works in their zygotic form, and after each work they will be invited to give their opinions. The first installment is called “Crit 001.” (She hopes there’ll be a series that at least goes to double digits.)
“After a show everybody congratulates you and that’s great,” Ms. Ching says. “But I really wanted to create a place where somebody could give feedback that would’t necessarily be positive.”
On Thursday night Patrick Melroy, who hosts the Towned podcast, will moderate the post-show critique. Ms. Ching is hoping for “longtime performance arts aficionados and enthusiastic newbies” to turn up. “I’m also hoping people take the opportunity to share their voice with the audience afterwards . . . We want you to ask questions, especially when we’re talking about people (in the audience) who don’t have experience in the performing arts.”
The evening focuses not just on dance but “performance based art.” Elizabeth Folk will be performing a new work along with Ally Bortolazzo, a student from her SBCC Performance Art class. Tim Wood works at Media Arts and Technology at UCSB and also happens to be a dancer, and his piece involves his interaction with Kinect for Xbox One, the body scanning system originally designed for video games that is a favorite among tech artists for its hackability. Multi-media artist Shannon Willis is working with dancer Kaita Mrazek on a piece, and Misa Kelly and her Art Bark group promise something tech as well. Ms. Ching’s own piece is a more traditional dance work, but with some intensive lighting cues.
Weslie Ching graduated from UCSB’s dance department in 2002 and moved to Los Angeles, where she danced with Karin Jensen and Benita Bike. She returned to Santa Barbara not for dance reasons, but “when I got here I realized how great the dance community is. It’s really dynamic in Los Angeles, but it’s harder to make connections, it takes time. Santa Barbara is a smaller community but for its size it has such a strong support for the arts.”
In due time she has danced for Art Bark, Robin Bisio, Heather Shea, Nebula Dance Lab and Opera Santa Barbara, among others. Last year, after a 10-year break, she returned to choreography and set up Weslie Ching Dance.
Ms. Ching doesn’t know too much about any of the works other than her own, but that’s also the point. REDCAT in LA offers something similar in its studio nights. It’s a chance to experiment.
“I’m not trying to create one cohesive statement with the five performances,” she says. “It’s a grab bag. I hope the work that they show will go somewhere after this.”
Ms. Ching underlines the fact that she’s not looking for opinions steeped in performance art history or even recent history. In order for art to succeed, she says, it needs a broader audience.
“Often when you show to the same type of people (as yourself) it becomes a closed loop,” she says. “I’m looking to get new perspectives.”