Monday, December 3, 2018
A helix in its root meaning is a “type of smooth space curve,” but that’s only one of the many shapes featured in Helix, the recent evening of dance presented at the Lobero by Nebula Dance Lab. For this substantial evening, Nebula artistic director Devyn Duex teamed up with choreographer and lighting designer Meredith Cabaniss and a starry galaxy of outstanding area dancers, including members of the Santa Barbara Centre for Aerial Dance, Santa Barbara Dance Theater, along with a large contingent now associated with Nebula.
Divided into three distinct acts, Helix showcased the high standards, creative originality, and serious ambition of Santa Barbara’s dance scene. The evening opened with a reprise of Ninette Paloma’s “Sonnet of Limbs,” a gorgeous and moving suite of dances featuring aerial equipment such as the trapeze, the lyra, the corde lisse, and the double ropes. Paloma’s vision encompasses an entire world of movement; what the dancers do on the floor matters just as much as what they do in the air. Yet it is the ingenuity with which such young performers as Lucia Metcalfe, Lydia Johnson, Isabel Musidora, and Rachna Hailey take flight and sculpt it into art that lifts “Sonnet of Limbs” into the stratosphere.
Act Two provided a pair of strong ensemble pieces and a thrilling solo by Christina Sanchez. “Individuation,” by Shelby Lynn Joyce, sent an octet of dancers in red dresses into seething continuous motion in time to a score by Philip Glass. Meredith Cabaniss’s “Gravity” was, by contrast, a sextet in gray full of springy, irregular steps and set to a funky electronic soundtrack. Christina Sanchez, who performed the 1944 solo work “Cante Flamenco,” is one of our community’s greatest treasures. Words cannot express the nobility, charm, and sizzle she brings to this historic work.
The third act finale was “Through the Looking Glass,” an ambitious work by Cabaniss featuring live music by director/composer Adam Phillips and a large cast. It tells the story of Alice in Wonderland in 12 scenes, each of them featuring a distinct style of movement, and all of them enhanced by Nebula’s amazing costumes. The sixth scene featured choreography by Karyn Laver for herself and Caitlin Davis, who made a fabulous clogging duo out of Tweedledee and Tweedledum. The work moved lightly and confidently through the wild maze of Lewis Carroll’s imagination, and showed the dancers’ talents to admirable effect.