Church Alternative of the Week

Santa Barbara Dance Tribe

Call it an alternative church service, an extension of Saturday-night clubbing, a community-building exercise, or a radical hangover cure. Whatever purpose it serves, Dance Tribe is one heck of a way to spend your Sunday morning. I’d been hearing about the weekly, free-form dance gathering for months, but hadn’t checked it out until last weekend. “Knock back your coffee and jump in the shower,” I told my friend. “We’re going dancing.”

It was a bright, breezy morning outside State Street Ballet’s studios, but inside the light was dim, the sounds of traffic muffled. A young woman in flowing white clothing welcomed us and proffered a basket of earplugs. Beyond her, the doors opened into a darkened studio, where scarves were draped across ballet barres and flecks of colored light danced across the walls. In the far corner, a deejay spun down-tempo tracks with deep beats that made the floors reverberate.

We’d seen the sign outside: “This is a no drugs, no alcohol, no shoes, no talking environment,” so we slipped off our flip-flops in silence and headed out onto the dance floor. I lay on my back, breathing deeply and watching the tiny green lights that crept across the ceiling. As the deejay’s beats gathered momentum, I realized the group had grown. Most people moved independently: swaying, walking, rolling, or standing still, as if each person heard something different in the music.

We danced for nearly two hours, thrashing around to the faster tracks, swaying to Latin music, and propelling ourselves through space to old-school hip-hop. Dancers came and went-at peak time, there were about 50 people moving through the space together, though I was having too much fun to stop and count. And then, when we were ready, we gathered our shoes and stepped through the door into the bright sunshine of Sunday afternoon, drenched in sweat and blinking like newborns.

Want to get in on the fun? Dance Tribe goes down every Sunday from 11 a.m.-1 p.m. at the Gail Towbes Center for Dance (2285 Las Positas Rd.). For more info, visit


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