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Four Dances

What: Bodytraffic dance performance

When: 8 p.m. Tuesday, April 25

Where: Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, 50 Mark West Springs Road, Santa Rosa

Admission: $15-$45

Information: 546-3600, lutherburbankcenter.org

A decade ago, when dancers Lillian Rose Barbeito and Tina Finkelman Berkett moved from New York to Los Angeles, they soon discovered they weren’t finding the same range of performance opportunities they had enjoyed on the East Coast.

They solved the problem by founding their own company, Bodytraffic, which has since become a critically acclaimed international troupe, touring the U.S. and the world. Last fall, the company performed for 16,000 people at the Hollywood Bowl.

Bodytraffic makes its first Santa Rosa appearance Tuesday, April 25, at the Luther Burbank Center for the Arts, performing four dance pieces by prominent contemporary choreographers.

“We’ve had a very busy 2017,” Barbeito said. “Since January, we’ve been to 17 different cities in the United States. Next we’re going to Algeria to be cultural ambassadors for the United States and to be part of international dance festival. We’ll leave from Santa Rosa to go to Algiers.”

The Bodytraffic performance in Santa Rosa will feature five of the troupe’s eight dancers, presenting original dances by four choreographers working in a wide range of styles.

“That is part of what we’re known for. We typically have at least three or four pieces on a program.” Barbeito said.

“The feedback that we often get is that audiences cannot believe how versatile we are, from one piece to the next, each in a completely different genre with a whole different atmosphere,” she said. “In one work, the dancers can be acting literally like monsters, and the next piece can be very ethereal and balletic.”

The program for the Santa Rosa show includes:

1. “Beyond the Edge of the Frame,” choreography by Sidra Bell. “She has a boutique company in New York City,” Barbeito said. “This work opens the program. It’s more abstract. It opens with a dancer looking at the palm of her hand and twirling, a little bit like a whirling dervish.”

2. “A Trick of the Light,” choreography by Joshua L. Peugh. “He has a company in Dallas called Dark Circles Contemporary Dance. What that title is referring to is the supposed green flash that occurs if you’re on the beach, perhaps, and you’re watching the sun dip underneath the water line. The green flash actually occurs in the piece. It’s set in the 1950s and feels a little bit like New Year’s Eve. The costumes include very big puffy dresses and bow ties. The music is from that era.”

3. “Fragile Dwellings,” choreography by Stijn Celis. “Celis from Europe and when he created this work, he was living in Switzerland, where they virtually have no homeless people. We were working out of a studio in L.A., and he was astounded by the homeless population when I was driving him to rehearsals. There’s something like 90.000 homeless people in downtown L.A. He couldn’t believe our culture would allow that to happen. So he dedicated the work to the homeless of Los Angeles. The title refers to the fact that the place where we dwell is our minds, and our fragile our minds are. That piece is set to music which is very spiritual.”

4. “o2Joy,” choreography by Richard Seigal. “We close with one of our signature works,” Barbeito said. “The sound score is fabulous. It’s all great American jazz music, like Ella Fitzgerald, Oscar Peterson and Billie Holiday. It is an homage to that genre of music and a sheer celebration.”

During the past 10 years, the mission and approach of the Bodytraffic company has evolved, Barbeito said.

“Three years ago, I retired from performing,” said Barbeito, 40. “Then I really understood the full scope of my passion for directing, and also for designing and implementing our outreach and education programs.”

The company has gone beyond the founders’ vision of finding their own outlet for self-expression to include the dancers’ vision as well, she said.

“We have a collection of artists that we believe in. We’re always wanting to challenge them technically and artistically and to keep them inspired. We surveyed them about the choreographers they dreamed of working with, so our list has expanded.”

But it’s not enough just to dance. Barbeito said. Bodytraffic’s day in Santa Rosa includes not only the evening performance but a daytime show for school children and a master’s class for aspiring dancers.

“We’re looking for our dancers to be upstanding citizens of the world. That’s another thing that Bodytraffic is known for. People can see the camaraderie onstage and we want as much interaction with the locals as possible.”

You can reach staff writer Dan Taylor at 707-521-5243 or dan.taylor@pressdemocrat.com. On Twitter @danarts.

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