Director/Choreographer Susan Marshall, for whom the Susan Marshall Dance Company is appropriately named, left the palm trees in New York. Can you believe it? She actually left the palm trees in New York.
So when she brings her company to UC Santa Barbara next week she will have to improvise a little.
One of the three works the group will be performing, "Articles of Faith," debuted at the World Financial Center in New York a while back, where the setting is a little different from the one at UCSB's Campbell Hall.
"The stage had 40-foot palm trees coming out of the floor," said Marshall. "So the work has gone through some changes as we've been on the road without the palm trees. This is almost like a premiere."
Even without the trees, "Articles of Faith," like all of Marshall's work, is like a novel told through dance.
"It tells of a community of people, a group that keeps returning to where they used to be, and there's something evil there," she said. "But there are no specific characters, not even a plot like in my other works. It's much more episodic."
The other two works the eight-person company will perform go back to Marshall's usual format. "Arms" is a duet performed by a man and a woman who move only their upper bodies and their arms. And an excerpt from "Interior with Seven Figures" revolves around a mother, a father and two sons and focuses on the family as a whole, said Marshall. "Our older works have been quite humorous and light, but this is quite a serious type of program," she said. "It's hard to find something naturally humorous in dance without forcing it. It has to be funny without being cartoony or campy."
It's Marshall's way of telling a story that has earned her acclaim over the past five years. In 1985, the company's first year on tour, the 30-year-old Marshall was awarded the New York Dance and Performance Award for Outstanding Choreographic Achievement, and in 1987 she received the American Choreographer Award. Last year she won the Brandeis University Creative Arts Citation in Dance.
"In some ways the recognition makes it easier to work," she said. "It's a safety net. People will put up with you longer, even if you're not doing something they like. You're not going to lose all your funding and bookings in one year. Although we don't live in luxury by any means, we are getting funding."
While Marshall and Company is more used to performing at international festivals, the visit to UCSB is just one stop in what Marshall says is the group's longest campus tour to date.
So far, she said, audience reaction has been great. Maybe that's because her work can be enjoyed by the dance aficionado and novice alike.
"We use a lot of gestures, everyday movement with dramatic qualities," she said. "Some of the audience who understand our work most simply and directly are elementary school students. Hopefully there's a level of our work that's accessible."
Marshall and Company will perform April 17 at 8 p.m. Tickets are $15, $13 and $11 (general admission) and $13, $11, $9 (students). Marshall will be on campus a day earlier to give a free public lecture-demonstration at 4 p.m. in Campbell Hall. BIG BIRTHDAY PLANS
The city of Santa Barbara will be 208 years old April 21, and residents are marking the occasion in a really big way beginning April 18:
* For starters, the third annual Presidio Days will kick off with arts and crafts demonstrations--from candle-making to leather tanning to wool dyeing to metalworking--from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. April 18, continuing through April 22. There will also be multicultural dance and music performances throughout the five-day celebration.
* The city's official birthday party, complete with birthday cake, will be held April 21 at noon. The Spanish Naval Band will attend. All events will take place in and around El Presidio de Santa Barbara State Historic Park, 123 Canon Perdido Place. For information on events and times, call 965-0093.
* A concert by Bo Diddley on April 19 will highlight the second annual Santa Barbara Fair and Expo sponsored by the 19th District Agricultural Assn. It will run April 18 to 22. Diddley may know how to play guitar, but he's leaving the drums to the Trinidad Calypso Steel Drum Band, one of the musical acts that will perform at the fair. For added entertainment, Butler Amusements will again provide a carnival midway.
There will be a gaggle of commercial and competitive exhibits in livestock, poultry, floriculture and horticulture, in addition to arts and crafts, photography and fine arts. A Junior Livestock Auction will be held April 22 beginning at 1 p.m. All animals are raised by 4-H and Future Farmers of America members.
Oh, and keep an eye out for those swift swine, Hedrick's Racing Pigs from Kansas.
"The pigs are dressed in different-colored satins and they race down a track," said fair publicist Linda Mears. "They race for Fig Newtons, and people stand around and cheer. They're billed as the fastest pigs in North America."
Admission is $3 adults, $2 seniors citizens, $1 children 6 to 12). Children 5 and younger are admitted free. For information, call 687-0766.