Choreographers working in America these days might be forgiven for developing tunnel vision as a survival strategy. It’s easy to fall prey to the scarcity model — not enough funding, rehearsal space, performance venues, or public support — and to react by scaling back goals and guarding resources jealously. Yet instead of narrowing her scope, longtime Santa Barbara dance maker Misa Kelly has expanded — some might even say exploded — her vision.
Last week’s Affinity III marked the fifth festival Kelly has hosted since launching SB-ADaPT Fest (A Dance and Physical Theater Festival) in October 2011, bringing artists from Slovenia, Israel, Turkey, and the U.S. together to meet and perform in Santa Barbara. The purpose of the smaller Affinity series is to keep those connections alive and to foster new ones.
This most recent mini-fest kicked off Wednesday with a master class led by New York choreographer Valerie Green. Dancers of all ages and backgrounds packed the studio, eager to sample Green’s blend of Hawkins technique with her own distinctive idiom. Later, the Fishbon Pescadrome hosted an evening of conversation, film screenings, and experimental Skype performances — a technology Kelly and her Husband, Stephen, have used extensively in their long-distance artistic collaborations. There was talk of ADaPT 2013 in Istanbul and footage from the preceding festivals in Santa Barbara, Paris, and Vienna.
Come Saturday, a crowd gathered at Yoga Soup for an evening of dance, film, and music presented by NECTAR. Barefoot in a hot-pink tulle dress festooned with plastic dinnerware and fake mustaches, Misa Kelly welcomed those assembled and declared her intention to support “professional, working-class artists — the 99 percent of us who don’t make it to the top.” Among this diverse group was SoCal-based classical Indian dancer Ramya Harishankar, who held the audience in her thrall as she conjured flowers with her fingers and an evil snake with her forearm. Kristin Licata and Julia Sabangan of New York’s Dance Entropy performed Valerie Green’s “Con-Joined,” a comic duet centered on push/pull dynamics. NECTAR founder Cybil Gilbertson and her partner Paul Wehrman offered a meditation on love and loss, featuring Wehrman’s beatboxing skills. Other Santa Barbara artists and companies included filmmaker Ted Mills, singer/songwriter Valarie Mulberry, and dancer Melissa Block. From elsewhere on the West Coast came BodySensate, Rubans Rouge Dance Company, Perceptions Dance, Hart Pulse Dance Company, and Movement Theatre Colab; Trina Mannino brought solo work from New York.
Affinity III saw artists coming together across all kinds of divides: geographic, economic, stylistic — and simply psychological. What even Kelly may not yet see is that by drawing artists together in this way, she’s helping to explode the myth that isolation abets survival.