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Dancing Queen

Sara Wilbourne
Wilbourne to Be Wild: Choreographer Sara Wilbourne flexes her kinesthetic muscles along with Nita Little in "Leaving Impressions," a movement extravaganza Friday at SC's Dance Gallery on Front Street.

Sara Wilbourne leaves everything to the imagination

By Christina Waters

AFTER MANY YEARS of being championed as an inspiring teacher, Sara Wilbourne will remind us once more this weekend why we continue to be captivated by dance. Not just dance, per se--though there is a huge emotional rush involved in watching bodies articulate secret ceremonies and deathless desires--but dance done à la Wilbourne, the kind that stretches viewers' imaginations along the lines of her articulate legs and exquisitely controlled arms.

On Friday night at the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery, Wilbourne will be joined by a few new friends and a few old friends--intriguing accomplices all--for a one-night stand called Leaving Impressions.

Wilbourne blames the whole thing on improvisational mentrix Nita Little, a former Santa Cruzan who moved away, helped found the contact improvisation movement and then moved back to town. "She has been teaching dance improvisation on Friday mornings at the Dance Gallery," Wilbourne explains. When the two finally got together, everything clicked and a conspiracy began. "Besides," Wilbourne teases. "It's really an excuse for me to dance."

After over 13 years of teaching at Cabrillo College, Wilbourne walked away from dancing for a while. "I really needed a break. I'd been teaching for so long, and I was burned out", she says.

Then Wilbourne got involved with First Night and recently was seduced into dance administration by Tandy Beal & Company and the Pickle Family Circus. "Nothing like having a desk job to make you want to dance," she laughs.

Wilbourne's dance card has been full since she graduated from the much-acclaimed dance program at the University of Utah in the late '70s. It was there she met her longtime artistic collaborator, Tandy Beal. Fondly celebrated as a teacher, Wilbourne has unleashed the inner dancer in hundreds of students of all ages. She's been an artist-in-residence at high schools and colleges throughout the West. She's still teaching dance classes through the Dance Gallery, and is thrilled at what she calls an unmistakable resurgence of interest in movement.

"There really is some kind of new energy toward dance," Wilbourne says. "People seem to want to move." She has witnessed "larger and larger" class sizes at Dance Gallery and new companies like Moving Ground start to crawl out of the woodwork.

"I think it's absolutely imperative that people connect with an art form," she muses. "Maybe it's a general awareness that just making money isn't enough--that we need to take care of our souls."

Wilbourne is taking care of her soul, which will be fleshed out and revealed this Friday night. She's invited other artists to help stir the pot. Bruce Lee, a media artist whom Wilbourne describes as "a real Renaissance person," is one. And, of course, she invited her dance partner of the past decade, Ken Williams. "He's my most favorite body to dance with." New in town, Julie Oaks, a contact improvisation artist, will bring her ideas to the performance, and guitar virtuoso Kenny Hill will provide magic fingers and sensuous accompaniment.

Wilbourne and dancer Per Haaland--a member of Nita Little's new Smith Grade Construction dance company--will perform a piece joined by Dresden chanteuse Nancy LeVan. Beal also will bring some movement sorcery to the evening.

The evening's inspiration is leaving--parting, coming, going.

"We decided on this as a theme because it's broad enough." Wilbourne says. "We've all left a place, a person, a situation--and returned. We all have some experience of this."

The concept also extends to death: the Big Goodbye. "It's right in our faces all the time and on our minds artistically."

The show explores other things on the choreographers' minds as well.

"It's got sex," Wilbourne giggles.


Leaving Impressions will be performed Friday (8pm) at the Santa Cruz Dance Gallery, 418 Front Street, SC (457-1448). Tickets cost $5.

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From the May 1-7, 1997 issue of Metro Santa Cruz

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