“We didn’t come to Santa Barbara to create a safe piece; our intention was always to go big.”

Shannon Gillen is addressing the large crowd that has gathered around her in the Lobero theatre’s courtyard for a post-performance celebration, a look of quiet intensity framing her expression as she stuffs her hands into her jacket pockets and deadpans to the group: “I hope you liked it.”

If two evenings of standing ovations were any indication, I suspect Santa Barbara audiences did.

When FUTURE PERFECT opens with dancer Laja Field teetering on the edge of the stage in a perpetual hinge, lip-syncing in wide-eyed ecstasy to the haunting vocals of Anna Calvi, Gillen sets an unwavering premise for her deliciously unorthodox approach to concert dance. Over the course of a breathless sixty minutes, audiences are flung into a physical narrative that straddles the perceived and the surreal, effusing a dreamlike quality of nostalgia and science fiction against an all too familiar landscape (camping, anyone?) Ironically, it is the flight-bound, velocity-fueled movement that anchors us to the characters’ virtuosity: show me your release technique, and I’ll tell you who you are.

For Friday Club members already dialed in to the company’s arduous creative process (a relentless kneading of sound, dialogue, movement, and light–with nominal wiggle room for error) the evening served as a gratifying culmination to an intimate journey they shared a part in. “To see it all come together, with the music and costumes and the incredible dancing, was just so amazing,” remarked Allie Cole, a sixteen year old Santa Barbara dancer who, together with her grandmother, never missed an open rehearsal.

In just four fleeting weeks, Gillen’s seedling idea surrounding four people on a quest for their own humanity unfurled between the walls of a historic theatre, rising up dramatically from the unruly mulch; encouraged by a residency program that boldly manufactures risk and welcomes renewed perspectives. For first time DANCEworks attendee Mike Saad, the program served as a poignant reminder of art’s supernatural ability to change us. “I’m transformed. That was so refreshing. I can’t say I have ever, ever seen anything like that.”

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