Over four days this weekend, the festival as usual offers audiences a panoply of dance, to enjoy some or all (with an incredibly economical festival pass).
Local youth dance groups, and college and studio performers highlighted the range of dance Santa Barbara offers.
Six local dance educators also were honored with “Apogee Awards” for advancing dance and performance – from children in low-income housing to studios to inclusive adult dance groups.
Seven dancers from SBCC Dance Company opened with “CAGED,” set to a percussive soundtrack “Sufi Part 1” by Polynation, with body rolls, plunging bends and geometric movements, all to the beat. Serious expressions and all-black attire reflected the title of the work.
Artistic patchwork quilt of dance from across the country coming to HHII Festival this weekend. (Kathee Miller photo)
The Peabody Charter School PantherDance Company, with upwards of 20 grade-school dancers under the direction of dance maven Steven Lovelace, performed an optimistic, hip hop-inspired “Be Nice,” set to the song by the Black Eyed Peas feat. Snoop Dog.
Panthers returned to the stage later with the energetic, “We Go Together” set to the “Grease” soundtrack – wearing poodle skirts, ’50s neck-kerchiefs, white tees and jeans. The fun they were clearly having was contagious.
Three tweens from Everybody Dance Now! gave a bright, unscheduled performance of “Space Jam” in white basketball uniforms.
A trio of impeccably rehearsed young adult women from Santa Barbara Dance Arts explored friendship, interweaving their bodies in graceful, balleti modern movement to Carole King’s “You’ve Got a Friend.”
The Dance Network offered a spirited tap number with five dancers in various colored metallic leggings that drew attention to their precision footwork. I would have liked “Miss You” by Foster the People to have been mixed a little lower so we could hear the tapping rhythms better, but they looked sharp and comfortably loose.
State Street Ballet’s Young Dancers’ sprightly work en pointe featured 12 dancers in gossamer sheaths (except the sole strong-and-stretchy male dancer in gray shorts and tank) danced in ensemble, partner and solo. They evoked a fresh, springy mood with twinkly fingers and upward movement set to Oliver Davis’s “Airborne Dances.”
Nebula Dance Lab’s professional dancers closed the show with “Air” set to music by Natalie Noone and Karl Mullen. A male/female duet danced with gentle strength to repetitive spoken poetry. A solo set to French vocals concluded the show with pedestrian movement punctuated with subtle shoulder and head movements.
“Apogee” awards were interspersed throughout, introduced by Duex and previous winners.
Duex introduced and accepted the first award for long-time UCSB alumni/faculty/choreographer and director of Montecito School of Ballet Delila Moseley, who was at the opening night of UCSB’s winter dance concert weekend.
Dance Network owner Karen Laver shared words of appreciation of Tamarr Paul for a distinguished live and music video performance and choreography career and for providing singular hip hop training to local students through Rhythm Dance and Fitness Studio and summer programs for children
Nicole Comella of Gustafson Dance and State Street Ballet Young Dancers gave a lengthy talk about Cecily MacDougall’s career as a ballerina and founder of State Street’s Library Dances outreach program, which blends literature study and dance in high school and junior highs.
Lovelace lovingly introduced Teresa Kuskey Nowak, founder of La Boheme Professional Dance Group, valuing her mission to open doors to dance for adults of all abilities through cabaret fusion choreography, noting the group can be seen “basically everywhere, from the Santa Barbara Summer Solstice parade to charity fundraisers, supporting veterans and more.
Carrie Diamond of The Dance Hub, spoke for Bethany Sutherland, Westmont grad in engineering physics and art, and Santa Barbara director for Everybody Dance Now! Sutherland spoke appreciatively of the work of all honorees to advance dance for artistic and transformative purposes.
UCSB’s Christina McCarthy presented the Lifetime Achievement Award to Nancy Colahan, whose career as a modern dancer included Lar Lubovitch and Alvin Ailey and who has been choreographing and teaching at UCSB since 1997.
HHII festival continues through Sunday with unique performances each evening that feature an array of professional dance groups from Santa Barbara and across the country.
Friday night’s performance includes a special Mix & Mingle event at 6 p.m. for all ticket holders, including small bites, custom drinks by local mixologists, and live music.
Festival passes or individual performance tickets are available online and at the Center Stage box office at 805.963.8198.
Local arts critic Judith Smith-Meyer is a round-the-clock appreciator of the creative act.