David Alvarez and Lena Pousette went all out in Alvarez's "Rumba & Jive."
Paul Wellman

In one little syllable, the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance captures the explosive energy of social dance in Santa Barbara. BASSH stands for ballroom, Argentine tango, salsa, swing, and hip-hop. Last Friday, more than 65 dancers gave the packed Lobero Theatre samplers of each of these dance styles.

Dance Alliance president Rich Hoag and dancer/choreographer Derrick Curtis emceed the evening. “Last year, these dancers were sitting where you are,” Hoag announced before the show started. “That’s right,” added Curtis. “Next year, this could be you.”

The program that followed was thrilling, and it was often hard to tell whether the dancers or the audience were having more fun. From the slow, sensual exoticism of the tango to the L.A. street beats of hip-hop and salsa, the dancers seemed to delight in each other and in the art form while maintaining an optimum level of energy for two-and-a-half hours of tight ensemble work, dramatic dips, and acrobatic partnering.

The hip-hop numbers-including “Syphe Beats” performed by Santa Barbara Dance Arts, “School Is in Session” by Rhythm Street Team, “Persuasion” by Fusion Dance Company, and “Reggaeton Brava” by Salsa Lolita-consistently brought the audience to its feet with the excitement of seeing so many energized bodies onstage at one time. Carlos Martinez and Cynthia Norton performed “Tango Passion” with acrobatic lifts and technical brilliance. The two exploded with chemistry as they treated the audience to their own interpretation of the classic tango.

Newlyweds Avital and Hector Sanchez included gymnastic-like splits and lifts in their salsa number “My Inner Voice.” Also popular were the subtle and elegant ballroom dances from Arthur Murray Dance Studio and the toe-tapping swing dancing of Curtis. David Alvarez danced with his own brand of magnetism in two pieces, including “Cha Cha and Jive,” which he choreographed himself and performed with Alison Allan.

After witnessing an evening dedicated to the talent and passion of Santa Barbara’s dancers, no doubt a few audience members were tempted to take up Hoag and Curtis on their invitation. The call to join in is consistent with Dance Alliance’s commitment: to bring dance to the community and the community to dance.


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