Common Ground — Found

Monday, June 22 2015 •
interviewing and reviewing California’s diverse arts community
State Street Ballet, Eisenhower Dance, Santa Barbara Dance Theater - May 9, 2015
Common Ground — Found
roblem solving is honeyed
manna for State Street Ballet’s
Artistic Director Rodney
Gustafson. Inviting Detroit’s
Eisenhower Dance and Santa Barbara
Dance Theater to join in celebrating
the final performance of his company’s
20th season at Santa Barbara’s Granada
Theatre May 9th, Gustafson devised a
program, including two world premieres,
that gave each organization opportunity
Daniel to strut their unique
then bond for a
Kepl capabilities,
joint collaboration, the world
premiere of choreographer
Edgar Zendejas’ aptly titled
Common Ground, set on
contemporary composer Max Richter’s
“recomposing” of Vivaldi’s masterpiece,
The Four Seasons.
A collaborative artist by
inclination and instinct, Gustafson
carefully stitched together a cohesive
program of repertory from all three
companies: works by choreographers
Gina Patterson (Between Shadow and
Soul), Christopher Pilafian (Smolder), and
William Soleau, the world premiere of his
new work, Canvas. After intermission,
Gustafson mixed everybody up for a joint
performance of the world premiere of
Zendejas’ Common Ground.
Eisenhower Dance opened the
full-house evening with choreographer
Gina Patterson’s Between Shadow and
Soul (2014), set to a vaguely Latin, quasiAfro-erotic score by Israeli composer
Armand Amar. Burke Brown’s noir
lighting design merged deep water blues,
presumably representing the id, with Shari
Bennett’s teasingly naughty negligee
whites (women) and über-hetero Marlon
Brando Streetcar-inspired jeans with tank
tops (men). Pablo Neruda’s Sonnet XVII
could not have been far from Patterson’s
choreographic consciousness: “I love you
as certain dark things are to be loved, in
secret, between the shadow and the soul.”
Santa Barbara choreographer
Christopher Pilafian’s Smolder (2014),
to Rachmaninoff’s Trio élégiaque No. 1
in G Minor for Piano, Violin, and Cello,
was set on his steadily evolving Santa
Barbara Dance Theater, the only resident
professional dance company in the
University of California system. Based
loosely on one of Pilafian’s modernist
paintings (Distance), the work represented
a synesthesic corollary for the artist
between the color red and the music of
Rachmaninoff, expressed through dance.
Smolder has acquired solid form and
content since last seen about a year ago.
There have been changes in personnel
as well and the latest iteration of the
company’s product is better balanced
in ensemble appearance and execution,
form and virtuosity. Costume design
(Renita Davenport) and lighting design
(Michael Klaers) gave subtle consonance
to Pilafian’s match of music to visual and
color narrative.
New York City-based
choreographer William Soleau has set
several world premiere’s on State Street
Ballet over the years. He has established
an artistic rapport with the company that
is both canny and intimate, inspiring
the best from them time and again. The
paintings of Mark Rothko were subtle
numinous for Soleau’s new piece, Canvas
(2015), which received its world premiere
May 9th. Signature Soleau, the work
featured a non-dance element, guitarist/
composer Chris Fossek, moving discreetly
among the dancers while performing
his original music composed for the
piece. A color palette of greys (costume
designer Ben-Oni Cortes) and Soleau’s
always gorgeous flowing movement
design, gave wonderful visual impact
to the narrative over several sequences
performed with superb technique and
artistry by six members (three couples) of
State Street Ballet. Soleau’s contemporary
classical ballet penchant (women in toe
Members of Detroit’s Eisenhower Dance perform a duo from Gina Patterson’s Between the Shadow
and the Soul
shoes) paired delightfully with Fossek’s
sometimes funky/folk Jim Croce-like
stylings. Soleau’s inate understanding
of visual symetry, order, and meaning,
together with his inveterate romanticism,
gave Canvas universal appeal and elegant
After intermission all three
companies came together as one, to
perform Edgar Zendejas’ intriguing worldpremiere choreography to Max Richter’s
equally fascinating and often amusingly
kaleidoscopic re-imagining of Vivaldi’s
eponymous The
Four Seasons.
Staged with the
same black box
simplicity as earlier
works on the
program, a thankful
counter to Richter’s
often dizzyingly
busy and off-thewall score, the
miracle on stage was Gustafson’s, for
imagining the possibility of seamless
collaboration between three disparate
dance companies performing with
seasoned style and finesse, Zendejas’
intimate exploration of the four seasons
of human interaction. Highlights: a fun,
boys only sequence; the emotional power
of stopped motion and sudden silences,
mid-phrase; gorgeous slow movement
ensemble passages; and the incontestable
beauty of the human form.
Daniel Kepl has been writing music, theatre,
and dance reviews since he was a teenager.
His professional expertise is as an orchestra
conductor. He will conduct the Emeriti
Philharmonic Orchestra during its ten day
residency in Cuba in March/April 2017.
To watch Daniel Kepl’s video interviews with
California’s diverse arts community visit