Dianne Vapnek in the Lobero Theatre (Jan. 2, 2015)
Paul Wellman

I’ve always admired Dianne Vapnek, the visionary mind behind DANCEworks Santa Barbara. The organization commissions choreographers, gives them a month-long residence, and then provides the chance to perform their new work in front of audience at the Lobero Theater for feedback. The program is one of the most ideal and innovative ways to truly nurture and cultivate artists.

Over the years, Vapnek has commissioned works from choreographers Brian Brooks, Doug Elkins, Larry Keigwin, and Azure Barton, among many others. This year’s artist in residence is Adam Barruch, who will be in Santa Barbara starting on August 31 and will perform on September 25 and 26.

I treasure spending time with Dianne — she’s vibrant, funny, witty, and a total mensch. Below, she answers the Proust questionnaire.

What makes you laugh the most?

Incongruity and awkward situations make me laugh. For example, being in a dance class and being the only one moving downward when the rest of the class is moving in the opposite direction can be pretty amusing. Also, at this moment in time, my two-year-old granddaughter makes us laugh constantly with her unexpected actions and words.

What do you consider your greatest achievement?

Raising three children to adulthood. Close second, being married over 50 years. Close third, helping other dancers realize their creative potential by providing them with time, space, and support to create new work.

What is your most marked characteristic?

My Jewish nose and outspokenness. Is there a connection?

What do you like most about your job?

It would have to be the meaningful and enduring relationships that have developed over the years between the choreographers we’ve presented and myself. It’s been an unexpected gift that has given me a host of wonderful friendships.

What is your idea of perfect happiness?

I can get very happy with a perfectly mixed martini with a twist, in a quiet, intimate bar. Alternatively, get me on a dance floor with great music and a great dancer.

What is your greatest fear?

As much as I’ve fought it, severe turbulence at 35,000 feet still reduces me to the definition of a nervous wreck. Public speaking used to cause me to break out in a cold sweat, but thank the Lord I overcame that one.

Who do you most admire?

It has to be the working poor because of the daily, non-stop grind they must face just to make ends meet. A grim job, grim housing, and a grim future, cannot in any way be an easy existence.

What is your greatest extravagance?

I love to shop for unusual items when I travel. I prefer to do it alone, with no one near me telling me that I shouldn’t buy it!

What is your current state of mind?

I love beginnings. A New Year with new possibilities is rejuvenating.

What is the quality you most like in people?

A strong sense of humor, but integrity, intelligence, creativity, flexibility, and reliability must be in the mix as well for a relationship to be more than passing.

What is the quality you most dislike in people?

Dogmatism, egotism, and volubility.

What do you most value in friends?

Being there through thick and thin.

Which words or phrases do you most overuse?

According to a friend, I say, “right” a lot. I also am guilty of using a small amount of profanity on occasion. Judging from the looks I receive, even the small amount I use might be more than most people my age think is appropriate.

Which talent would you most like to have?

I think it must be wonderful to be an accomplished musician because you can entertain yourself, improve infinitely, and be in the company of other musicians to make something extraordinary together and have a very long career.

If you could change one thing about yourself, what would it be?

I’d have long willowy legs. And, it goes without saying, that I need to be more patient.

Where would you most like to live?

I’m quite happy where I am, but it can get insular. I do need to travel periodically to Japan and NYC to charge my creative batteries.

What is your most treasured possession?

A photograph of my father who passed away in 2000 that sits on a table next to my bed. I greet him in the morning and say goodnight in the evening.

What is your motto?

“Better late than never” and “There’s more than one way to skin a cat,” which is horrible, but very useful. If I really want to do something, I try to find a way.

Which historical figure do you most identify with?

Eartha Kitt

On what occasion do you lie?

I’ll never tell.


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