Step into Carrie Diamond’s tucked-away studio, a study in pink-clay-colored walls and muted furnishings, and you’ll soon forget that just outside the doors, the bustle of downtown life scurries on. “I wanted to create a safe and relaxed space for dancers to walk into and forget about the rest of their days for a while,” explained Diamond, director of American Dance & Music (AD&M) and owner of The Dance Hub, Santa Barbara’s newest sanctuary for dancers.
After a long and steady search, Diamond’s vision of creating a “hub for cross-pollination and a variety of approaches working together” has taken shape as an airy, three-studio space located in the heart of Santa Barbara’s Arts District. On any given day, one might arrive to find Pilates instructor Ken Gilbert leading a reformer session, the soothing swish, swish sound heard faintly in the distance as Susan Alexander’s modern dance students leap feverishly in an adjacent studio. “We want our schedule to feel integrated,” stressed Diamond. “Our hope is that a student might arrive for their favorite dance class and then decide to stay for a restorative class.”
Over the past 13 years, Diamond has carved out a formidable reputation within the dance community as a champion for what she lovingly refers to as “the honored dancer,” offering beginner ballet classes to students well into their sixties. “There are a lot of people who danced as children and then didn’t dance for a long time,” she said, “so it can be pretty intimidating to walk into a studio full of young bunheads.” At The Dance Hub, Diamond’s hope is to create an environment of dignity and discipline regardless of age and experience. “I had a new student tentatively ask me if, as a 37-year-old, she’d be the oldest student in her ballet class, and I laughed and told her she’d probably be the youngest,” Diamond recalled. Her company also brings dance directly to those unable to attend classes at the studio, touring AD&M around the city’s senior living communities and currently exploring the idea of creating an “armchair ballet class” for students with limited mobility.
On the heels of the Hub’s grand opening, one of the most exciting developments for Diamond is a newly approved city grant that will allow her to offer subsidized rent for area artists and nonprofit organizations. “I’ve rented studios since the beginning of my career and know firsthand what I could afford — which wasn’t much,” she said. “This will be an incredible opportunity for artists to get creative for hours on end without breaking the bank.” She’s also gearing up for the next installment of Dance: Up Close and Cultural, a free community event that features intimate guest performances in genres ranging from Afro-Brazilian to flamenco. Also new to the company’s roster is a carefully developed, eight-week ballet intensive for the absolute beginning adult. “We want to dare those people who’ve stopped dancing for years and years or have never taken a formal ballet class in their lives believe in their ability to pick it up at any age.”
If the smiles around the waiting lounge are any indication, The Dance Hub has struck an affirmative chord for dancers of all walks of life wanting to keep a toe in the dance world while balancing everyday life and careers. “I was on a tight deadline today and almost didn’t show up,” said one student, “but my husband convinced me to come, and I’m so glad I did.” Just outside the studio, another student is adjusting her blouse as she stuffs her ballet slippers into her handbag. A gang of business types in blue hurry past toting coffee cups, and the roar of a delivery truck snaps us both to attention. “Well, back to reality,” she cried out, and stepped out into the fray.