A Decade of Dance All Stars

Mark Dendy as Rumsfeld, holding Elvis from Elvis Everywhere

What an exhilarating weekend to be in the company of my esteemed peers and fellow artists in Santa Barbara to celebrate Dianne Vapnek‘s 10th year anniversary of Danceworks.  This festive evening brought home all the choreographers who DANCEworks has commissioned.  They’ve each enjoyed one month residencies to create work over the last decade at the Lobero Theatre .

Act one was the world premiere of Doug Elkin’s Kintsugi. Elkins is a mastermind in cultural fusion and here he put that talent to good use adding Japanese influences to the mind-bending mix. The piece is amazingly crafted to bold and varied music choices. And the dancers are terrific! Nuanced well-versed in his style all individually gifted and each stars in their own right.

The All Star Dance Lineup

Doug Elkins

Larry Keigwin

Kate Weare

Adam Barruch


The second act of the evening was hosted and coproduced by Larry Keigwin, who is also a board member. Of course everything went like clockwork. The night opened with Adam Barruch‘s outrageous and hilarious take on Stephen Sondheim’s The worst pies in London from Sweeney Todd. Next up was Keigwin and his endearing, touching and virtuosic Wonderful. It was musical, off kilter, quirky with just a hint of melancholy underneath that allowed the work hit home in such a poignant way.

I did a little ditty. And then Nicole Diaz knocked it out of the park in Kate Weare’s Praise, a sleek, fierce portrait of woman-strength, power, line and unshakable technical ability.

Doug Varone

Doug Varone’s spellbinding performance in his latest solo Nocturne is a star turn. He walks into the light and commands the space. He possesses a maturity and presence not seen in younger performers. Yes, we often see it in more mature performers but we never have seen it paired with such technical skill and with peak dancing! He carves space with his hands.  You can see trails coming from his fingertips. He slashes the air like lightening and whips out turns with breakneck speed. Legs strong and steady.But here’s the clincher it’s all in the service of something. That inner, unknown mystery that none of us quite know exactly what it is.   However, we know when we see it and feel it. Thanks Doug!

Shannon Gillen

Shannon Gillen and Jason Cianciulli’s Colorvision is a motion soundscape pyrotechnic rock ‘n’ roll kick ass eccentric Sometimes quadrupedal and inverted gravity defying.  It’s a  beautifully danced and released-in-space gem.

Aszure Barton

Azure Barton’s solo from Awaa danced by William Briscoe displays his precision technical prowess in this hauntingly surreal Work. A rickety broken winged-man lurches forward toward the audience at the beginning to later make his way into some exquisite mysterious dance poem.

Brian Brooks

And to top it all off,  the inimitable, cut from one singular exotic cloth somewhere in the outer limits, Brian Brooks in a tour de force! He is a marvel in physical capability – awe inspiring – l’m Going to Explode. It seems as though an every day everyman in a regular suit with a regular skinny tie has come home to his regular chair and taking off his regular shoes just explodes to this song Losing My Edge. The brilliance of this work is that Brooks suggests a possible narrative but gives us beautifully abstract movement, pure movement. To watch him move is to see someone who is capable of  isolating every single cell in his body. Each time I watch this man dance my mouth drops open.  I get goosebumps-just wow! After this evening I have enough energy to keep me going for the rest of my artistic life.

In Summary

As for me, Dianne Vapnek, I am overwhelmed with gratitude for all that everyone gave to make this Anniversary so remarkable. How very lucky I am to have spent so much of my life in the art form I love so well, dance!

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