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Dance Through Time

primemoversLocal movers and shakers bring the evolution of Santa Cruz dance to life on stage

Santa Cruz County is notorious for its lively dance community. From classic ballroom dance to contemporary hip-hop, conventional ballet to daring burlesque, we’ve got it all. But that hasn’t always been the case.

Prior to 1959, there wasn’t a formal dance class to be found in town.

All that changed when Roberta Bristol organized the first dance class at Cabrillo College, which served as a catalyst for the local movement.

In honor of Bristol’s and other movers and shakers’ contributions over the last 50 years to the development of a thriving dance community in Santa Cruz County, the Cabrillo College Dance Department, under the leadership of local luminary Tandy Beal, will present a one-night only event on Friday, Jan. 25, entitled “Prime Movers: Stories & Dances of Santa Cruz, 1959 to Now.”

“This evening will be a kaleidoscopic view of our local history,” says Beal. The renowned choreographer came up with the idea for “Prime Movers” last summer and soon after began reaching out to fellow teachers and performers to participate. Dixie Fun Lee Shulman, founder and director of the Santa Cruz Fringe Festival, was quick to volunteer as co-organizer and publicity director. “I was thrilled that [Beal] asked me to help her,” says Shulman. “I have known about her for decades. She is just a beautiful person inside and out.”

“Prime Movers” offers both the audience and performers an opportunity to witness the evolution of dance in Santa Cruz County as it unfolds on stage through song, choreography, photography and storytelling. “There are many stories, but together we will put together a quilt of the many approaches to dance and its development,” explains Beal. 

Each of the dance instructors who have been invited to choreograph pieces for “Prime Movers”—including Rita Rivera, John and Nancy Lingemann, Elda and Esteban Ortiz, JoAnne Bailey, and many more—will be given a few minutes to present their piece and recount their experiences and contributions to the local community. Featured dances include Mexican Folklórico, modern, Brazilian, tango, and more.

In addition, a timeline will be available in the lobby for audience members to share their own accounts of the local evolution of dance.

In an effort to recognize Cabrillo College’s contribution to dance in Santa Cruz County, all proceeds from “Prime Movers” will be donated to the Cabrillo Dance Scholarship Fund. 

“Dance is clearly one of the key arts in Santa Cruz and the wider world,” says Beal. “It is the way we integrate our mind, spirit and body into a cohesive whole.” 


 “Prime Movers: Stories & Dances of Santa Cruz, 1959 to Now” debuts at 7:30 p.m. Friday, Jan. 25 at Cabrillo College Crocker Theater, 6500 Soquel Drive, Aptos. $17/general, $15/students and senior, $13/with Cabrillo ID. For tickets, visit cabrillo.edu/internal/divisions/vapa/events/events/spring13/1_dancemovers.php.

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