Christopher Pilafian (Dance Artist, Choreographer, Educator, Visual Artist), has danced on stage, television and in film with choreographers Alvin Ailey, Judith Jamison, Charles Moulton, Louis Falco, Matthew Diamond, Lynn Taylor-Corbett, Pearl Lang, Elizabeth Keene, Kazuko Hirabayashi, Kathryn Posin and many others. He graduated from Interlochen Arts Academy with an award for choreography and received the Doris Humphrey Scholarship and the Louis Horst Fellowship at The Juilliard School. A founding member, principal dancer and Associate Artistic Director of Jennifer Muller/The Works, Mr. Pilafian performed with the company in major theaters in over 30 countries throughout Europe, The Middle East, North, Central and South America from 1974 to 1989. He created original roles in 45 one-act and full-evening works by Ms. Muller, Judith Jamison and Lynn Taylor Corbett, involving renowned artists Keith Haring, Yoko Ono, Keith Jarrett, Sandro Chia, David van Tieghem, David Hykes, Bill Katz, Randy Barceló and others. He performed in PBS’s Alive From Off-Center in choreography by Charles Moulton, a national commercial choreographed by Louis Falco, the feature film, Phi Beta Rockers, choreographed by Matthew Diamond, and appeared in a handful of daytime television dramas. Between tours, he offered public classes in contemporary dance technique at Dancerschool and Peridance Center in New York City from 1980-1989.
Mr. Pilafian visited UC Santa Barbara as a guest artist in 1990 and has remained a member of the dance faculty. He has taught technique, choreography, improvisation, repertory and pedagogy, directed concerts and guest-lectured for survey courses of 100-500 students. He has served as moderator for post-performance audience discussions with visiting professional dance companies sponsored by UCSB Arts & Lectures and has served on numerous committees, councils, panels and boards, including the Council of Faculty Issues and Awards, Curriculum Committee, Studio Faculty Committee, California Arts Council, Santa Barbara Dance Alliance and SUMMERDANCE Santa Barbara. He is the official university representative to the National Association of Schools of Dance and the Council of Dance Administrators. In 2011 Mr. Pilafian was appointed Vice Chair of the Department of Theater and Dance, Director of Dance and Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater, the university’s professional company in residence.
He has choreographed over 60 works for the concert stage, including commissions for Jennifer Muller/The Works, Repertory-West Dance Company, Santa Barbara Dance Theatre, American Repertory Dance Company, San Diego Dance Theater, Princeton University, Dance Kaleidoscope and soloists Nancy Colahan, Tracy Kofford, Susan Shaberman and Danah Bella. His works have premiered at The Joyce Theatre, New York City; Villeneuve-les-Avignon, France; Indiana Repertory Theatre, Indianapolis; New Performance Gallery, San Francisco; The Luckman Fine Arts Complex, Los Angeles; The Alex Theater, Glendale; The Ohio State University and The California Center for the Arts, Escondido. Theater and opera productions include Flora, the Red Menace, directed by Philip Himberg for the Los Angeles Reprise! series, A Little Night Music, directed by Jonathan Fox for Ensemble Theater Company, The Consul for Opera Santa Barbara, and Plumfield Iraq, Cloud 9, Iphigenia 2.0 and Idiot’s Delight for the UC Santa Barbara Department of Theater and Dance.
Mr. Pilafian’s choreography has appeared frequently in the repertories of UC Santa Barbara’s two resident dance companies, with tours to China, Italy and the Czech Republic and performances at the American College Dance Festival in California, Arizona and Washington State. Mr. Pilafian directed and choreographed the SB Dance Alliance-produced, interdisciplinary, evening-length work, Points of Departure in 1997. His piece Artifact was created for students at UC Santa Barbara and later performed by Jennifer Muller/The Works at the Joyce Theatre in New York City. In collaboration with dramatist Catherine Cole, he co-created Five Foot Feat, a critically acclaimed dance theater work that was presented in New York City for the Association of Performing Arts Presenters and on tour nationally and internationally. His two-part work, Thin Skins was based on composer Joel Feigin’s string quartet Mosaic in Two Panels. He was commissioned by Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater to create one half of the evening titled The Pilafian Project/Atlantic Man.
As Artistic Director of Santa Barbara Dance Theater, Mr. Pilafian’s full-evening work, A Leap of Faith, premiered in 2013 and played festivals in San Francisco and San Diego. In 2014 he presented Time in Motion, including two new original works and a reconstruction of José Limón’s 1949 masterpiece, The Moor’s Pavane. In 2015 the company co-commissioned award-winning international choreographer Edgar Zendejas to create Common Ground for SBDT, State Street Ballet and Eisenhower Dance from Detroit. The work was premiered at the Granada Theater. In 2016, SBDT celebrated its 40th anniversary season with two separate programs. The January program featured premieres by past and present artistic directors, Alice Condodina, Jerry Pearson and Mr. Pilafian, as well as Mr. Zendejas’s Impenetrable Winter, from Common Ground. The May program presented premieres of A Jointed Affair by NYC choreographer Emily Schoen Branch and Salt by the London-based Joshua Beamish as well as a reprise of Pilafian’s award-winning Strange Attractor, with an original score by composer Ryan Beveridge. In 2017, Pilafian directed Anima and Animus, premiering his work Mystique with an original score by composer Will Thomas; then presented premieres of Andrea Giselle Schermoly's Hers, and David Maurice's Were it Not for Shadows, with a reprise of Pilafian's Mystique and a premiere of his Baroque Fantasy. In 2018, the company presents Santa Barbara Dance Theater and guests, feauturing a guest appearance by Buglisi Dance Theatre in Jacqulyn Buglisi's Requiem, along with a new work, Moonscapes by Andrea Schermoly, Déjà Vu for Strings and Percussion, by Nancy Colahan, with music by Gianna Abondolo, Apara, an interdisciplinary collaboration between choreographer/performer Miche Wong and artist/writer/global traveler Mary Heebner, and Pilafian's new Toggle with music performed on stage by musicians from UC Santa Barbara's Department of Music.
Students of Mr. Pilafian’s have gone on to receive scholarships and fellowships at major universities, including NYU’s Tisch School of the Arts and California State University, Long Beach. Alumni are or have been employed by successful dance companies, including Pilobolus, Momix, Shen Wei Dance Arts, Parsons Dance, Rioult, Diavolo, Cleo Parker Robinson Dance, Jennifer Muller/The Works, John Malashock Dance, Nicholas Leichter Dance Company, Jean Isaacs’ San Diego Dance Theater; and entertainment organizations such as Disney, Cirque du Soleil, Cats (Hamburg), A Chorus Line (national touring company) and others. Others have formed their own companies in New York City, San Francisco and elsewhere, have earned advanced degrees in dance or physical therapy and joined the faculties of institutions such as University of Houston, Modesto College, Radford University, San Jose State University and others. In 1999 Mr. Pilafian was nominated for a UCSB Distinguished Teaching Award and in 2016 he was was the recipient of the HH11 Dance Festival's Lifetime Achievement Award and the Santa Barbara Independent's Excellence in Choreographer for his work Strange Attractor.
As a visual artist, Mr. Pilafian has exhibited his works on canvas and paper in solo, two-person and group shows and has designed scenery and costumes for dance productions.