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Review: Dancers Go ‘Wild’ for a Good Cause

Friday's moving performance a benefit for the Arts Mentorship Program Scholarship Fund

Rarely have so many generations of dancers been seen on one stage in one evening. With ages ranging from the single digits to the half-century mark and beyond, the participants were joined as one by their common passion for, dedication to and love of dance.

Dance Teachers Gone Wild is a yearly benefit performance for the Arts Mentorship Program Scholarship Fund, which provides dance education to underserved children in the community.

For Friday’s fifth annual show at Center Stage Theater, directors Steven Lovelace and Alana Tillim of Santa Barbara Dance Arts were joined by many of their instructors, as well as teachers from Gustafson School of Dance and Class Act Dance Studio in Paso Robles.

From the opening montage, with rapid-fire snippets in myriad styles, to the tight and energetic ensemble finale to Michael Jackson’s “Wanna Be Startin’ Something,” the dance teachers came together to put on a dazzling show. The squeals from young girls in the audience were testament to the love and admiration their students feel for them.

Ashley Greenawalt and Jesus Solorio performed a powerful duet with imaginative partnering and a deep vein of raw emotion to Jewel’s “Foolish Games.”

Maria Alfieri, Mindy Horwitz and Lovelace danced to “Steam Heat,” using choreography by Bob Fosse and Alfieri. Smooth and polished, the trio were pure Broadway.

Horwitz and Lovelace performed a piece of their own creation. “Stranded” was set to music by Van Morrison and proved to be thoughtful with an undercurrent of loneliness as the two moved about the stage, seeming lost and without making contact until the final moments.

Not everyone onstage was a teacher. Christina Sanchez’s young daughter paired with her for a brief but charming duet in the opening montage. And in several numbers, the instructors were joined by dancers from their respective schools.

“Day 1,” by Sarah Friedland and danced by SBDA’s Axis Dance Company, was an intriguing portrayal of a young girl off to school for the first time, reluctantly waving goodbye to parents and lost in the chaos of the classroom. At the same time, it seemed to portray an entrance into adolescence, perhaps saying goodbye to childhood. Good use was made of brown paper lunch sacks as recurring props and the dancers’ prim, sailor-collared dresses seemed of another era, contrasting nicely with the dark feel of the piece.

“Dancelife” was choreographed by Shannon Abero, Leslie Scott and Tillim, and utilized student dancers. Set to remixes of classic Broadway soundtracks and current hip hop, the piece was fresh and fun, benefiting from a wealth of attitude from the dancers.

When all of SBDA’s faculty appeared in the final ensemble piece, the energy was palpable. Stopping on a dime and ending on a perfect downbeat, these folks demonstrated that they are teachers, but dancers first, and they haven’t lost that joy in being on stage.

Let us all hope they don’t plan to retire anytime soon.

— Justine Sutton of Santa Barbara is a freelance writer and frequent Noozhawk reviewer.

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