With the 15th anniversary approaching of our annual dance concert, “Configuration,” it has been an opportunity to look back at Santa Barbara Dance Arts and the Arts Mentorship Program’s humble beginnings.
We began conducting classes in a church basement performing “Configuration” in a tiny theater at a small school. Now, we sell out five shows over two weekends and have a bustling schedule for more than 500 students.
In this pivotal year, the growth continues and we are facing a relocation that will bring the program to 531 E. Cota St., where we are building a 9,000-square-foot, state-of-the-art performing arts center. During this time of expansion, the annual show reminds us of the core of our mission, which is to mentor and expand the creativity of Santa Barbara’s emerging artists.
This is personified by our dance company members, who are proud to present “Configuration” on March 9-16.
The company mission is to provide a pre-professional experience for young dancers under the guidance of mentors. The young dancers have six to 10 hours of required classes each week depending on their age and level, and they have a mandatory rehearsal where they learn their repertory. The culmination of this work is “Configuration” at Center Stage Theatre.
What makes the show so special is that it includes student choreography. The students all must take a workshop where they receive a university-level syllabus and are mentored by local professionals who include members of Cirque du Soleil, Parsons Dance, Alvin Ailey and those who work in film and television. Their pieces are then adjudicated and developed under the careful guidance of the directors. The culmination of this process is the debut of their work at “Configuration” and the coveted $250 Student Choreography Award to be presented opening night.
This year’s student choreography includes an example of mentorship in action with a duet from a member of our senior dance company paired with a younger company member. Manon Taylor, 16, and Kailani Cordero, 11, have come together for a high-energy hip hop number that allows them to express their friendship through dance.
Emerging choreographers were a theme this year, with our youngest crop of dancers participating. Young dancers Carly Ballesteros, 10, Lexi Katz, 11, and Soren Berman, 11, have created their own vision of finding your voice through dance and self expression in a piece titled “Choose Your Destiny.”
For the first time, director and choreographer Alana Tillim explored the use of film and dance. Working closely with videographer Heather Shea, they juxtaposed a surreal and dreamy world on the screen while telling a story of struggle and loss on the stage. Shot on location at the beach, this was the first experience the teens have had with environmental choreography.
Choreographers Kyleigh Carlson, a UCSB dance major, and Larry Daniels, a recent graduate of UCSB, set a poignant piece on the Axis Dance Company that tackles the topic of growing up. Titled “Innocence Lost,” the work challenged the girls to explore those moments when they realize they are no longer little girls. From their first time away from home to breaking curfew, the girls have explored the sweet and dark side of growing up. This piece was selected to perform in New York City this July at the prestigious PULSE on Tour Conference and Convention by the likes of Desmond Richardson and Cris Judd.
In the theme of growing up, the finale production number tackles the idea of what it is like to grow up as a girl today. From babies to school girls, to teens to young women, the piece takes a journey through girlhood. The junior company delights the stage with onezies and oversized pacifiers in a tribute to toddlers while the senior company tackles the ‘mean girls’ mentality with a sarcastic look at popularity. The entire piece concludes with an emotional and vibrant piece that celebrates these young ladies embracing their confidence.
Year after year, the show has gained a public audience along with friends and family. They come to expect a family-friendly and entertaining production from Santa Barbara’s rising stars. This year we have five graduating seniors with our captain, Aryanna Aronson, auditioning for dance programs around the country. This is the next generation of artists who will grace stages in New York, Los Angeles and around the world. Their youthful exuberance and stunning athleticism is remarkable.
For parents and students alike, it is their favorite weekend of the year because of the energy and love that comes from the front and back of the house. If you love dance, don’t miss this inspiring show!
“Configuration” will be performed at 7 p.m. March 9 and March 15-16 and at 2 p.m. March 10 and March 16. Tickets are $17 for general admission, $10 for student matinees and $50 for VIP Patrons. To order, call the Center Stage box office at 805.963.0408 or click here.
— Alana Tillim is the owner and managing director of Santa Barbara Dance Arts.