The Healing Power of DANCE

Anyone living in Santa Barbara knows that the New Year did not really start in January, and as we go into February, many of us are trying to find traction.  We are in a state of limbo as our community recovers from the recent mudslide disaster.  Whether you and your family were directly impacted by the treacherous mud flow, or by economic hardship caused by evacuation or work displacement, or by second-hand PTSD as we watch the horrific images on our screens, it has been hard to establish a new ‘normal.’

The ones who are most affected by this tectonic shift in our community, are the children.  They sense the anxiety, fear, and stress of their parents and care-givers, and many of them are re-living painful memories from that fateful night of January 9th.   While families begin to rebuild, and schools are displaced, and we grieve the lost, many children may be feeling emotions that they cannot process.

Dance is an incredible way to begin the healing process.  Sherry Goodill, president of the American Dance Therapy Association has brought national attention to the needs of children and teens who have experienced trauma and how to support their resilience and recovery.

“Dance/Movement Therapy uses movement to bring about healing and recovery   Studies have shown that dance can decrease depression, improve mood, and strengthen positive feelings about one’s self…. It has been reported that children who have been traumatized can live on the alert, anxious and fearful. Dance-based methods for getting grounded, for sensing the body’s energy and position, and for developing breath support can help with learning to pay attention to one’s own needs, and for feeling more in control, and for regulating fearful or angry reactions.”

At Dance Arts, we believe that dance is a healing force, but more powerful is the community and support network our students and families find at the Performing Arts Center. The night after the mudslide, as shell-shocked mother held me as she cried. They live in Montecito and had just come from the hospital visiting a friend in critical condition.  She said, "my daughter needed to come here.. she needed to dance and feel at home when so much is lost, but I needed to come here to an experience this love and community.” We cried and hugged, as so many of us did in those raw and emotional days that followed.    

It occurred to me that rebuilding from this tragedy will only be done partially by hammers, nails, and excavators. The bulk of it will be done with human connection, empathy, and support.  We hope that you will find that here at Dance Arts, and that we can be catalyst for and healing among the rubble. 

Together, we will express our emotions and grieve through movement... especially  when we cannot find the words.  #805strong

Leap into the New Year:Out of the Ashes and on to the Stage

As our community struggles to get back to normal after the Thomas Fire and an extended holiday break, it can be hard to find motivation.  As dancers, the break from movement is physical and emotional as we lose our core method of self expression, so getting back to dance is important on many levels.

This is exciting time for families to make dance a part of their New Year's goals. Even our youngest dancers can begin the process of having a 'New Years danceolution.' 

Tonight, at the dinner table, find out what your dancer wants to achieve this year. Do they want to get their splits? Be confident with their dance at recital? Try to progress to the next level for our 2018-19 season, or even consider trying out for one of our performance teams in the Spring or Fall?  

We believe that dance goals should always start from the inside out.  We conducted a powerful exercise with our student companies and had each dancer put on a blindfold while their peers wrote all the beautiful things they see in them, directly on their bodies. After they were finished, they had to take off the blindfold and read out loud, with 'I am' statements what was written on them.  It was so moving for these young women to realize how truly loved they are by their friends, role models, and impressionable young dancers. 

In that spirit, every good goal is best served with self confidence and a powerful "I am" statement.  We encourage dancers to write their personal 'I am' statement and goals on a piece of paper and put these on their dresser or mirror, so they can be reminded of what they want... even when months have passed.    Help your dancer make a plan to achieve these goals , whether it involves practice at home, adding classes or privates, or calling the studio to find out what your dancer can do to achieve these goals.  Help them set a deadline, as this is crucial in making any goal a reality!  Parents are the best facilitators and cheerleaders and we love being the supporters and accountability coaches that make these goals a reality. 

We cannot wait to watch this hard work pay off on stage at our Inspire Recital in May and as we move into the momentum of Fall Placement and Company Auditions.

Happy New Year and please let us know how we can support your dancer in making his or her dancing dreams a reality in 2018!


Taking the next S.T.E.P: Advancement and Performance Groups

After 13 weeks of classes and some inspiration at our December Showcase, your dancer is hooked!  They want to move to the next level, take more classes, and have even mentioned being a part of Crew or Company.  I am sure you are wondering, what does that mean? What does it take? What should I do next?

If your dancer wants to progress in class, the accelerated track for our upper-level classes is called our S.T.E.P. Program (Style, Technique, Evaluation, and Placement).  Each year we spend September -May working on Style and Technique. Evaluations take place in the spring and Placement occurs at the end of August.  We have a syllabus that helps guide this process and gives all of our students clear benchmarks to reach in our program. 

If your dancer is passionate, it is important to remember to be patient.   Dance is a skill that takes time and dedication, but we promise, it is a rewarding and fun journey.  The next step to progress is training! Remember it is normal for any dancer to stay in a level for 2-3 years, it is exceptional to advance sooner. 

If your child wants to progress in Jazz next Fall, we suggest planning ahead and adding a ballet class, or a second day of week of jazz class.  For Ballet, training several days a week helps expedite advancement.  Styles such as Lyrical, Hip Hop, and Acro further expand performance skills, strength, and flexibility.   In addition to training during the school year, it is vital that students don't take a three month break!  During the Summer we have ten weeks of opportunity at Destination Dance for our young dancers to continue working on his or her goals! We have a special offer for dancers wanting to add more of these technical styles (see your newsletter!). 

We also suggest a private lesson. Privates are a great way to get some unique one-on-one time with your instructor, while also customizing a plan for your dancer. Privates help provide an at-home regimen of training so your dancer can be working on their goals in and out of the studio!    Plus, we have a special that provides five 30 minute lessons for $175. What an awesome gift for your inspired dancer! Email to arrange today- we will be able to accommodate privates over the break!

You have seen the photos on the wall, and the awesome performances at the December Showcase, and now your child is asking about being a part of Company or Crew. 

What are Company and Crew? Crew is a recreational team that is for dedicated dancers with talent, focus, and discipline. We have two Crews: Mini (ages 6-9) and Junior (ages 10-13). They have extra routines in our shows, community performances, one competition/convention in Southern California, and bonding opportunities and parties.   There is an application process that will begin in April.  Pre-Company, Company, and our Elite Competition team require a written application as well as an audition. These dancers are mentors, leaders, and learn a full repertory that is performed in the annual concert: Configuration.  They travel, build community, friendship, and participate in philanthropy. Empowerment and leadership are at the core of this program.   Auditions are in September, with sign up opening in June.

If your dancer wants to be a part of one of our Crews or Companies, we suggest a regimen of ballet, jazz, and hip hop training.  Consider doing a FREE Pathways meeting with the Director (me!) in April and be sure to attend one of our community performances or the Company show Configuration in March 2018!  We will also hold a special meeting on April 9th that lays out commitment and cost- SAVE THE DATE!

All of these things will help get your dancer prepared, but the best thing to ask yourself is what the commitment will mean for your family.

Do you have time? Crew calls for 2-3 classes per week, while Pre Company and Company calls for 5 classes per week, our Senior Companies and Competitive Team require 6-9 classes per week. Your dancer will need a solid strategy in terms of keeping up with schoolwork and you’ll need a transportation plan. Many schools offer Independent Study PE for students to allow slightly early release times to accommodate the schedule, but committing to a performance group may mean giving up other extracurricular activities.

What will this mean for my child? This means your child will have a second family.  While in athletics, they might change schools and teams, this gives your dancer a community they will stay with until they graduate from high school.  It is having a built in network of friends and upperclassman at Jr High and High School.  The reward is having discipline, time-management skills, and confidence through self-expression.  Our dancers go on to be professionals in the industry, or dedicated leaders in their chosen field. 

What if my child is happy where they are? Do they need to move up?  Not at all! Every dancer moves at their own pace. We welcome every dancer, whether they want to dance one day per week or a dozen, every child has a home at Dance Arts.  We believe dance is for everybody and EVERY BODY! 

If you want to get specific information about what to add for your dancer in order to achieve his or her dancing dreams, or learn more about one of our performance groups, we are here to help!   This is an exciting time of year where dancers can grow and nurture their talent and take a flying leap into the New Year!




By: Alana Tillim

When I was a little girl in a tutu, twenty years seemed like an eternity.   Just waiting the next week for my dance class seemed like an eternity.  I would have never guessed that this new and incredible passion I found would, one day, be my career.  Twenty years later, I look back on my journey and all of you who have shaped it and I am profoundly grateful.

I am grateful for… The students push me to grow as a teacher and leader.  The families put their trust in me and my teachers to provide a safe space for their children. The team of staff and instructors who make the studio a home for thousands of kids.  My mentors guided me to this point in life: Rich Wohlstadter owned the summer camp where I spent my childhood and it inspired Destination Dance and the community spirit at Dance Arts, Page Cook Perez was my favorite teacher who believed in me through so many tough times, Steven Lovelace for taking a chance on a 20 year old girl and trusting me to grow what he started.  My family has supported  me in every way possible to pursue this passion. Lastly, I am thankful for DANCE because it provides such release and even hope during my darkest days and helps me be a better person, wife, and mother.  I find when the world is painful or difficult to face, dance can help bring meaning and healing.  Sharing this gift with others and watching a child’s eyes light up when they feel their body move and find joy is so meaningful.  I genuinely find joy watching others find purpose and happiness through dance. 

I asked some of our favorite teachers and master teachers to reflect back on why they are thankful for this incredible art form.

Nathan Burdine-Ortega  (faculty: Jazz, Hip Hop, Acro, Minis) I am thankful for Dance because I was finally able to express myself from the deepest parts of my cells. In turn it gave me a power I never knew I had. 

Phil Wright (Master Teacher) I am thankful for dance because it saved my life.

Napoleon D’Umo (Master Teacher, Producer, and Choreographer): I am thankful for dance because it was the driving force behind all the blessings and opportunities I have been given.

Lauren Serrano (faculty: Jazz, Contemporary, and Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because movement allows me to reach a state of mind and being that nothing else can.

Janaya Cradle (faculty: Jazz, Hip Hop, Choreographer)  I am thankful for dance because it allows me to express emotions in a way that words do not, and it gives me an outlet to express myself in any way that I want to, without constraints.

Kenzie Crosley (Master Teacher and Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because it gave me a voice, the courage to express it and the ability to evoke change in myself, in others, and in the world. I am also thankful for dance for it's ability to be what I need on my happiest day and on my darkest day and all the grey in between. . .it's the best medicine I've ever known!

Kelli Forman (faculty:  Hip Hop, Improv, Choreographer) I am thankful for dance because it gives my soul the ability to communicate to whomever will listen/watch, which facilitates genuine connections and transformation.