It’s 10am on Day One of the 2017 DANCEworks Residency, and the distinctive rasp of character shoes scraping across the Lobero stage fills the theatre with the electric bustle of fresh beginnings.

Contemporary dancer Thryn Saxon slips on a pair of tango heels and hikes up her sweats, navigating her footing as she thoughtfully shifts her weight from hip to heel. In the corner, a speaker is plugged in, and the soft keys of a melancholy piano bring the movement to life.

From Buenos Aires to New York City, Kate Weare and her artists-in-residence have descended onto Santa Barbara for what promises to be one of the most innovative unifications of culture and movement language the DANCEworks series has ever hosted. Partnering with tango master Esteban Moreno and his trio of artists, Weare and company are sliding into uncharted territory for the idiosyncratic cross-pollination of contemporary dance with classical tango.

“Let’s see what kind of interesting themes these two forms can offer one another,” says Weare, drawing the group into a round floor discussion with her easy warmth and engaging manner. “I’m willing to be embarrassed by being out of my comfort zone and I invite you to join me. Let’s be embarrassed together.”

Both Weare and Moreno have spent the past few months preparing snippets of individual work that they will blend together over the next four weeks, drawing on the strengths of their dancers to develop an interchangeable movement that echoes both of their signature approaches. “In tango, we need to be two,” underscores Moreno. “Alone, tango doesn’t exist.”

By noon, the dancers have been split up into a series of trios and duets, with Moreno laying out the foundation for a complex footwork phrase while Weare explores innovative ways of creating connection thru hand gestures. The buzz of Spanish and English expletives flows thru the group as the dancers tackle challenging sequences, creating an immediate sense of comradery and a leveled platform to build on. Heading off any sense of trepidation at the pass, Weare surveys the dancers and breezily addresses the subject of language barriers and thematic obligations: “The only thing we are responsible for is an authentic exploration of movement, so go ahead and free yourselves from any weighted translation.”

Shoulders relax, knees sink in a bit deeper, and the dancers begin again.  

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