It takes a village to raise a child, especially if that child’s parents aren’t in the picture. That was the imagined scenario in Miguel and His Cell, the Santa Barbara Dance Institute’s performance featuring 300 public school children. This show told the story of a cell phone-obsessed boy who takes his life for granted until one morning when he wakes to find that his parents have left him. Rather than despair, he begins to reach out to his community.
Over the past year, SBDI director Rosalina Macisco and her team of teachers have worked with students on a weekly basis, incorporating dance in the regular curriculum. The success of this model was evident last Sunday at the Marjorie Luke Theatre, where the house was packed to capacity and the stage reverberated beneath the coordinated stomps, hops, and leaps of the enthusiastic cast. While parents and family members clapped and hooted, their children showed what they’d learned this year. They worked in teams, coordinating their movements, waiting for their cues and then leaping into action with street dance-inspired routines. In simple matching costumes by Anaya Cullen, they became a unified force: green T-shirts with sparkly dollar signs for “Money, Money, Money;” construction caps and doctor’s coats for “Workin’ Nine to Five.” Stage props added to the fun: 4th graders from César Chávez Charter School got to dance with brooms, mops, and dusters in “Cleaning,” while 3rd graders from Adams wielded checkered napkins for “Italian Restaurant.”
The kids were the stars on Sunday, thanks to a support network of adults from Rod Lathim—the writer of the show and a key player in the renovation of the Marjorie Luke—to the classroom teachers and principals who welcomed dance into their schools. Miguel and His Cell honored the role of the greater community by bringing some of these adults onstage: Councilmember Grant House appeared to bestow Miguel with an award for civic leadership, and a crew of real live firefighters danced alongside the kids. As the applause rolled in, I watched a couple of 3rd grade boys in the front row turn to each other and give a spontaneous fist pound: an unambiguous symbol of pride.