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UCIRA Artist Christopher Pilafian Named New Artistic Director for Santa Barbara Dance Theate

(Santa Barbara, CA) Heading into its 21st year, Santa Barbara Dance Theater announces the appointment of Christopher Pilafian to Artistic Director for the dance company sponsored by and in residence at UCSB. The appointment marks the beginning of a new chapter in this dance & visual artist’s career and allows him to bring his vision to the forefront leading the only professional contemporary dance company in town. Simon Williams, Chair, Department of Theater and Dance, UCSB stated, “We are delighted that Christopher Pilafian, who has had a most distinguished career with some of the leading figures of modern dance in America, has taken over as Artistic Director of SBDT. We look forward to the company sustaining the high level of work that has been seen so frequently from them over the years.”

Pilafian, who has choreographed 40+ pieces including commissions for Princeton University, Dance Kaleidoscope, Jennifer Muller/The Works, Repertory-West Dance Co., Santa Barbara Dance Theater (SBDT) as well as San Diego Dance Theatre and soloists Nancy Colahan and Danah Bella, will bring his visual art sensibilities to the company. “I see the company as a creative working ground for dance artists and collaborators to ask new questions, engage in forward-looking dialogue and discover ways to advance the possibilities of dance and multi-media performances,” said the choreographer. Pilafian has danced on stage, television and film with such well-known dance luminaries as Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Charles Moulton, Louis Falco, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Pearl Lang and others.

UCSB has boasted a dance company-in-residence since 1978, when Professor Emerita, Alice Condodina founded Repertory-West Dance Company. In 1991, Jerry Pearson transformed the group into Santa Barbara Dance Theatre. Pilafian joined the UCSB faculty in 1990 after working with New York based Jennifer Muller/The Works for 15 years. Beginning in 1974 as a founding member and principal dancer, he moved up to Associate Artistic Director. That dance company toured extensively throughout Europe, the Middle East, North, Central & South America giving Pilafian a unique world-view of dance and bringing all this experience to bear as a dance professor for scores of students. Some of these protégés have gone on to work in well-known dance companies such as Momix, David Parsons, Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater, John Malashock Dance, Muller/The Works, Shen Wei Arts and others.

Last spring, Dance Magazine noted in a feature piece how, via Pilafian’s longtime relationship with Muller, the UCSB faculty and students threw themselves with gusto into a one-day national conference to acknowledge Muller’s effect on the dance world. Titled “Transformation & Continuance: Jennifer Muller and the Reshaping of American Modern Dance, 1959-present,” it consisted of a beautiful photographic exhibit, a series of talks and a performance of Muller’s seminal 1974 work, Speeds. The idea was sparked by Pilafian and taken into action by Ninotchka Bennahum, also on the UCSB faculty. Pilafian described an early impression of Jennifer’s dancers: “The air between them was crackling. The whole stage exploded with the personal energy of relationships. On top of the pieces being beautifully danced and crafted, a circle with everyone shining in their own individuality created group synergy.” Pilafian talked about taking Muller’s ideas into teaching. “…to feel the body, you have to be introspective. When many students are preoccupied, thinking about whether they want to be an engineer, awakening that deep awareness in the body can be challenging. If students are fully engaged in the process, they can direct their energy to express playfulness and a huge range of human qualities.”

On January 18th, SBDT and Pilafian will host an invitation only, preview event in preparation for a new season to open 2012-13. The company plans to build a strong west coast touring network for the presentation of forward-looking dance/theatre work. This season Pilafian’s choreographic talents are on display at UCSB for “Cloud Nine” by Caryl Churchill directed by colleague Annie Torsiglieri as well as the opera “L’Incoronazione di Poppea,” (5.4.12 – 5.6.12) directed by Simon Williams for the Music Department.

(published from McFadden & McFadden Public Relations)

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