While many choreographers would look to a 50th anniversary tour to program a greatest hits package, Twyla Tharp, who will be at The Granada Theatre tonight, does the opposite in a career of bold moves. Instead she’s created an evening of two new works. “Preludes and Fugues” raids the extensive pieces in J.S. Bach’s “Well-Tempered Clavier” and bears the influences of all those that came before her in modern dance: Merce Cunningham, Jerome Robbins, Martha Graham and George Balanchine. And “Yowzie” turns from classical to jazz, with bright costumes and a soundtrack of early ragtime and jazz.
“Preludes” is “the world as it ought to be,” she says, “and Yowzie is the world as it is.” Ms. Tharp is quoting herself, and it’s a phrase that graces the evening’s program in her artistic statement. That tension between fantasy and reality has long been part of her work.
Adam Barruch is on to something that might be new in both the world of theater and the world of dance. Mr. Barruch’s adaptation of Stephen Sondheim’s “Sweeney Todd: The Demon Barber of Fleet Street” is not a dance interpretation of the musical. Neither is it Mr. Sondheim’s musical with extra dance numbers. Sitting in on the rehearsals at the Lobero Theatre – Diane Vapnek and her DANCEworks secured the space as a gift for his residency – it’s hard to say what Mr. Barruch’s “Todd” will finally become until tonight’s premiere.
William D. Popp plays Sweeney Todd, yet he’s often working alongside the other dancers singing about himself in the third person. These are concepts, not characters, to be possessed by at will. There’s something primal about it, like Mr. Barruch has gone back to druidic times, thinking more of blood sacrifice, and less dreadful about human meat pies.
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.”
Noches de Ronda, one of Old Spanish Day’s oldest traditions, opened for a three-night run at the Courthouse Sunken Garden on Thursday.
A two-hour program of flamenco and folklorico dance and music is a treat for both the ear and eye and represents the differing Latin influences on Santa Barbara history, from the Spanish explorers to the Mexican and Californio residents.
No matter the origin, the evening is filled with stunning outfits and poetic dancing. The Sunken Garden fills with families and friends, sitting in beach chairs and covered in blankets against the damp night air.
The SELAH Contemporary Dance Collective may sound familiar to those who have attended numerous showcases in Santa Barbara like Nectar, Fusion, Dance Alliance or Nebula’s HH11, but they have not had a full show to themselves until now. On Saturday, they will premiere “Wages,” a 40-minute work that they’ve been performing in excerpts since last year.
The evening will be preceded by two works from Montecito School of Ballet, where Meredith Cabaniss, one of SELAH’s founders, teaches contemporary dance.
Dancers grow and leave the stage. They become choreographers, some of them, and those who do often pass down their history and heritage to their star pupils. When the American Dance & Music company hits the stage today (and tomorrow) at the New Vic, they are bringing a piece that has been handed down twice, and that gives its name to this collection of four works.
“Turkish by Matisse” was originally created by Mari Sandoval in 1976, then passed down to AD&M founder Carrie Diamond, who was at that time Ms. Sandoval’s student at Santa Monica High School. Now Ms. Diamond is passing it on herself to AD&M’s Nikki Pfeiffer, who dances it this evening.
To dance departments have homecoming? For the UCSB Dance Company, two upcoming performances at Center Stage Theater could be seen that way. The company just returned from a two-week, six-city tour of Europe where it performed works both classic — José Limón’s “There Is a Time” — and contemporary works, including Nancy Colahan’s new work for the company, and a Jerry Pearson multimedia work written for Santa Barbara Dance Theatre. Now, they’re returning home to share with dance lovers, feeling triumphant and not the least jet-lagged — they’re in top form.
Director Delila Moseley took stock of her dancers at the beginning of the school year, and — according to her friend, department associate and mentor Alice Condodina — recognized that she had a particularly strong group, adept at solos, all of them. And the dance that came to mind was Limón’s “There Is a Time” from 1956.
In “The Blues Project,” tap dancer Michelle Dorrance and her company have teamed up with blues singer Toshi Reagon and a talented four-piece band to bring an evening to the Granada that expands the boundaries of tap dancing. This isn’t exactly a hybrid of two genres, but an extension of Ms. Dorrance’s long history of boundary-pushing within the realm of tap, and the musicians provide the background that places the numbers in a context of African-American history, from work songs to songs of the Civil Rights movement and beyond.
At first it may seem that blues is not as suited to tap as jazz is. But not so, Ms. Dorrance says. Tap and blues evolved around the same time.
State Street Ballet celebrates its 20th anniversary this year, not by focusing attention solely on itself, even though it has earned the right to do so. Instead it’s sharing the wealth, and inviting two other companies to share Saturday evening’s program at the Granada, to intermingle and produce one complete work. A symbiosis, if you will. With “Common Ground,” State Street Ballet will be joined by Detroit’s Eisenhower Dance and Santa Barbara Dance Theatre. All three companies will be performing, using Max Richter’s modernist remix of Vivaldi’s “Four Seasons.”
Just as Mr. Richter put Vivaldi’s four very distinct seasons into a bag and shook it up, “Common Ground” takes the members of all three companies and sees what happens when they dance together. The man behind this mission of mixology is Mexico City-born and Montreal-based Edgar Zendejas, artistic director of ezdanza and award-winning choreographer since debuting in 2001 after years as a ballet dancer.
When “Chicago” comes to the Granada this coming Tuesday and Wednesday, it brings along actress, singer, comedian and voice actor Roz Ryan , who in 2013 broke the late Marcia Lewis’ record of 223 weeks playing the essential role of Matron “Mama” Morton. She’s now in that show’s 19th year. When asked if she remembers the day they told her she’d broken the record, she says, “I can’t remember the day they called and told me, but I was on Broadway when it happened.” (The date was Oct. 21, 2013, in case somebody wants to check.)
Bolstered by Tony Awards and then Oscars, this Bob Fosse, Fred Ebb and John Kander musical continues to grow in popularity. Based on two real-life murderesses from the Roaring ’20s, the musical equates vaudeville with the media circus that pops up around salacious murder trials. It is smart, cynical, sexy and sad, and always helped by a saucy poster campaign filled with leggy stars wearing fishnet stockings. The production coming this week also stars Dylis Croman as Roxie Hart, Terra C. MacLeod as Velma Kelly and Jacob Keith Watson as Amos Hart.