When Tracy Kofford first took over the dance department reins at Santa Barbara City College (SBCC) nearly a decade ago, he was inheriting a beloved recreational program that had been holding casual space for students and community members alike. For a modest fee, adults could dabble in a jazz class during their lunch hour, and students could supplement their core workload with a little mind-clearing ballet technique. But Kofford, a former New York City dance professional and reputable artist, was never one to leave well enough alone.
Over the past several years, Kofford has been narrowing his focus on a growing collection of students interested in making dance a professional endeavor, transforming the role SBCC’s Dance Department plays in preparing them for a career in the movement arts. First, he brought on Brooke Hughes Melton — a seasoned dance academia instructor known for her technically driven curriculum — to up the ante on form and finesse. Next, he created the department’s first touring dance company, raising funds to book appearances at dance festivals and competitions up and down the West Coast. And somewhere between a packed teaching and traveling schedule, Kofford diligently campaigned over the inclusion of dance in SBCC’s growing list of Associate Degree programs. To date, Kofford’s hard-fought efforts have paid off: The company has already received numerous choreographic awards, and this semester, City College welcomed its first set of AA candidates in dance.
Santa Barbarans can catch a glimpse of this inaugural crew — along with nine other area companies — Friday-Saturday, November 8-9, in a talent-packed bill at the New Vic known as Collective Collaborative. With no fewer than 15 dance works ranging from classical ballet to contemporary dance, Kofford has once again curated a program that underscores his commitment and dedication to the community’s next generation of dancers.