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BASSH-Dance – NOW ITS OWN ENTITY, BASSH RETURNS FOR THREE NIGHTS OF COMMUNITY DANCE

Ross Barrett photos

Ross Barrett photos

Visitors to the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance website earlier this year might have wondered where its annual celebration of dance — both pro and amateur — had gone. Known and loved as BASSH (ballroom, Argentine tango, salsa, swing, and hip-hop), the event was nowhere to be seen, and the page had not been updated. Well, both SBDA and BASSH have survived, and the two have gone their different ways, amicably.

According to Derrick Curtis, the choreographer and creator of BASSH, the yearly performance, which opens tonight for a two-day, three-show run at Center Stage Theater, had to continue.

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A Funky Alternative to Solstice – Bohemia at the Beach offers its own Solstice fun

Barbara Fabian photo

Barbara Fabian photo

While the Solstice Parade makes its way up State Street to spill into Alameda Park, the Funk Zone will be setting up its own celebration for the first time. Called Bohemia at the Beach it’s the brainchild of Funk Zone resident James O’Mahoney, owner of the Surf Museum of Helena Ave., creator of Skateboarder magazine, and collector of fantastic ephemera. Instead of a grand event under one roof, Bohemia at the Beach has asked Funk Zone tenants — from galleries and art studios to bars and wineries — to do something special on Saturday afternoon to continue the Solstice themes, but with more of a gypsy, bohemian, beatnik bent.

“I’ve been wanting to do this for a while,” says Mr. O’Mahoney as we sit up on his rooftop lounge that overlooks Helena Ave. and Cabrillo, with the lagoon, beach and wharf beyond. “You’ve got 60,000 people going up to the park. You’ve got your drum circle and you can hold a stick of patchouli. And it’s always hot, so why not come to the beach?”

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Girls Whirled – Santa Barbara Dance Arts presents its 15th Configuration Showcase

Rod Tucknott photos

Rod Tucknott photos

Seeing a line of people outside Center Stage Theater, with only a few tickets left, can make a dancer feel “10 feet tall,” says Alana Tillim, artistic director of “Configuration” and co-director of Santa Barbara Dance Arts. This is especially true when the dancers are still middle- and high-schoolers. One week into its two-week run, this 15th year of this dance showcase has been selling out.

“It’s the first year in over a decade that over half the dancers on stage are unknown,” Ms. Tillim says, adding that last year’s seniors have graduated and gone on.

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New Director, No Boundaries – Christopher Pilafian debuts with Santa Barbara Dance Theater

In 2010, when Jerry Pearson stepped down as artistic director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater, UCSB’s in-residence modern professional dance company, there was a sense that perhaps the institution wouldn’t continue. For 20 years Mr. Peason had put such a personal stamp on the company that filling his shoes felt daunting. But two years later, Christopher Pilafian, a member of the dance faculty at UCSB since 1990, privately premiered an introductory glimpse into the new-look SBDT, with a piece called “Leap of Faith.”

“It reflects more about my situation and attitude and less about the overall subject matter of the piece,” he says now. “It’s the reality behind the situation of the piece.”

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Silver Belles – Cabaret setting provides alternative holiday show for SB Silver Follies

I feel the same way at sixty as I did at 16,” says the relentlessly perky Cathie Hetyonk. “It baffles me sometimes when I’m teaching that I can have that much energy. And the reason behind that is that music raises serotonin levels in the brain, as does exercise.”

Not to mention dancing, which we will do in a minute.

Ms. Hetyonk, along with her husband, J. Michael Alexander, head the Silver Follies, an over-55, all-dancing, all-singing review that started small but is getting bigger each year. And this coming Wednesday until the following Saturday, their annual holiday show, “Christmas at the Stage Door Cabaret,” proves it.

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Not a Tough Nut to Crack – State Street Ballet returns home after a successful tour for ‘The Nutcracker’

David Eck Photo

David Eck Photo

Santa Barbarans like to complain about the weather when it dips below, say, 65 degrees. Likewise, we also like to complain a bit about the number of “Nutcracker” productions in town. However, we should spare a thought for the many communities that rarely get a visit from the sugar plum fairy.

Durango, Colo., for example, loved the fact that our very own State Street Ballet is on tour with the Tchaikovsky holiday classic. Socorro, N.M., gave the company a standing ovation when it performed there. Now the ballet company returns for a series of hometown shows at The Granada.

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Forces of Nature – The team behind ‘Ruckus’ returns for a free show at CAF

Back again so soon? Some readers may remember Anaya Cullen and Marko Pinter from September’s issue, when they caused a “Ruckus” over at Center Stage Theater, where they were one-third of that evening’s show of multimedia performance. For this Thursday’s forum Lounge at Contemporary Arts Forum, the two return with their still-unnamed company for “Gravitational Forces,” a longer, more ambitious piece.

Returning to mix sound, video and dance are Kaita Lepore and Steven Jasso, who Cullen considers as much a part of the company as the two creators. For “Dichotomous” and “Ruckus,” Cullen remained behind the scenes. But for “Gravitational Forces,” she returns to the stage as a performer. Santa Barbara audiences will know Cullen from her previous performance work for SonneBlauma Danscz Theatre, though currently she is the costume designer for State Street Ballet.

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Brief Encounters, Long Engagements – Paul Taylor Dance Company returns with a career-spanning selection

Tom Caravaglia Photos

Tom Caravaglia Photos

At 80, Paul Taylor is one of, if not the only, master choreographer from the birth of modern dance who is still alive and creating. He danced in the companies of Merce Cunningham, Martha Graham (who dubbed him the “naughty boy” of dance), and George Balanchine, absorbing styles and techniques as he went. By the time he set up his own company in 1954, Taylor had a style, a way of moving. But most writers agree that when Taylor retired from dancing in 1974, his choreography went from good to great, as his company, his family, became a group of mini-Taylors. A towering presence himself, his male dancers tend to be larger than average.

“You can do the steps, but there’s a way that he moves that you have to learn,” says Robert Kleinendorst, one of the current company’s senior dancers. “He likes everything to originate from the hips, the back and the center. There’s a lot of twisting. The arms are secondary.”

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Sankai Juku bring the esoteric dance of butoh to The Granada

Butoh, the post-war Japanese dance style that celebrates slow, methodical movement, rarely comes to Santa Barbara, and so the crowds that turned out for Sankai Juku’s appearance at The Granada Thursday night seemed larger than usual for such an esoteric experience. For those who stuck with it, the all-male company’s work, “Tobari — As if in an Inexhaustible Flux” paid off in surprising ways.

A life cycle in a way, the seven acts of the work took us through nothingness, creation, life, death and back into nothingness. As the program explained, “Tobari” is a Japanese word meaning veil, physically and metaphorically, a veil between day and night, or life and death. But it also described the backdrop, a simple but absolutely mesmerizing wall of stars in an inky blackness. Stared at long enough — and butoh encourages and requires lots of staring — the stars did seem to twinkle and move.

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The Shadow Knows – Dance Company Pilobolus returns to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures

John Kane Photo

John Kane Photo

Though the dance company Pilobolus counts over 100 works in its repertory, the majority of readers will know it from its shadow pieces. Featured in Hyundai ads and on the Oscars, the dancers assemble themselves into organic shapes, from animals to teapots, and the audience sees them only through a screen. But this intersection of “art and athletics,” as The New York Times once wrote, has many more levels, as their return to UCSB’s Arts & Lectures on Thursday demonstrates.

For Renée Jaworski, choreographer and former dancer with the company, Pilobolus is unlike any other organization, and this is from a former member of the equally wacky Momix.

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