The distinguishing scent of tires and perspiration floats through the dimly lit theatre as two dancers roll predatorily across the floor, sneakers and elbows punctuating the air to the refrain of an ambient soundscape. Director Shannon Gillen is pacing thoughtfully, kicking up the rubber mulch that has been scattered across the stage’s expanse, occasionally leaning over to pick out bits of suspect material as the athletic pas de deux gains ferocity around her.
It’s only day three of rehearsals, and VIM VIGOR’s acute dreamscape–dancing around themes of nostalgia and escapism–is materializing swiftly. “We want to blow minds here, so the pressure is on,” emphasizes Gillen. “Making sure that what we share has the same high standards as when we have months to prepare is our priority.” For company members Laja Field, Martin Durov, Jason Cianciulli, Emma Whiteley, and Rebecca Diab, the city serves as an inspirational counterbalance to a day of long rehearsals. “Santa Barbara is like a Dr. Suess town,” marvels Diab, “so picture perfect and whimsical.” Field nods in agreement. “Lots of Vitamin D keeps everybody happy.”
If Gillen’s physical theatre inclinations have created the framework for this season’s piece, entitled FUTURE/PERFECT, it is her fascination with west coast/east coast juxtapositioning that has set the tone for an animated movement language reflecting the complexities of the human experience. “I want to play with the idea of space and harmony clashing. In New York, people head to nature to get away from their lives, but here on the west coast, they’re searching for a deeper connection.”
A few hours later, the company heads across the street for a moment of respite, and as they tuck gamely into their artisanal cheese sandwiches and arugula salads, I am struck by how quickly they’ve acclimated to their left coast environs. Until I look down twenty minutes later, that is, to a sea of empty plates and the subconscious tap, tapping of active feet. “Shall we head back to the theatre,” Gillen asks gently, and the company leaps up in agreement; New York dancers, indeed.