Tag Archives: Santa Barbara

Poetry in Motion

I’m really excited about the Santa Barbara debut of Sankai Juku at the Granada this Thursday evening, courtesy of UCSB Arts & Lectures. You can read my interview with the company’s founder and artistic director Ushio Amagatsu here. The evening-length piece they’ll be presenting is called Tobari: as if in an inexhaustible flux, and Amagatsu talks about the work as a reflection on the nature of time and the human condition.

A scene from Tobari

What I’ve noticed about all the butoh I’ve ever seen is that like poetry it cuts straight to the deepest and most universal themes. The stereotype of butoh is the solo male performer in white grease paint, his head shaved, moving almost imperceptibly slowly. While we may see some of that, Tobari has also got physically dynamic passages, stunning lighting, and rich metaphoric material. It’s poetry in motion, and that’s a rare and sacred thing.

I Can Fly!

My most recent dance feature in the Independent is about Santa Barbara’s first and only dedicated aerial dance studio, La Petite Chouette (The Little Owl, in French). Owner Ninette Paloma is a passionate, dedicated teacher and longtime circus artist who trained with some of the celebrities of Cirque du Soleil. She loves her work, and her students love her.

Ninette Paloma

I had the privilege of sitting in on her advanced youth class one afternoon last week, and now I’m eager to go try out some of their moves–especially the long tumbling descents that I imagine must feel almost as good as flying. If you’re in town, I suggest you check out the studio, which is located off lower Milpas Street between the Hamburger Habit and the Batting Cages. You might just find me hanging around.

Duende: Now I get it

I just filed a review of Piano Abierto, the highlight of the 11th annual Flamenco Arts Festival in Santa Barbara. Wow. As I said in the review, I didn’t totally get flamenco until I saw this performance. Saw isn’t even the right word. I experienced it–it being el duende–the hard to define quality flamenco artists are supposed to feel and transmit to the audience. When I interviewed the show’s composer David Peña Dorantes, I asked him to define duende. You can read his response in my preview of the show.

Rosario Toledo

Still, reading someone else’s description of duende is about as much like experiencing it as reading a description of sex is like actually making love; not very. Speaking of making love, that’s the analogy I used for the way Dorantes stroked and caressed the keys. More than orgiastic, which I always find a somehow reductive description, I’d call the dialogue between the performers in Piano Abierto ecstatic. It was ecstasy that made Rosario Toledo open her mouth and let out little cries as she danced, ecstasy that made the bassist beam and the audience shout and Joaquín Grilo, one of Spain’s superstar flamenco dancers, ham it up like a Spanish Grace Kelly and shake his booty like Shakira. I went in thinking “I’m not really a flamenco person.” I left thinking, “Ah: so that’s duende.”