Ross Barrett photos
Ross Barrett photos

Visitors to the Santa Barbara Dance Alliance website earlier this year might have wondered where its annual celebration of dance — both pro and amateur — had gone. Known and loved as BASSH (ballroom, Argentine tango, salsa, swing, and hip-hop), the event was nowhere to be seen, and the page had not been updated. Well, both SBDA and BASSH have survived, and the two have gone their different ways, amicably.

According to Derrick Curtis, the choreographer and creator of BASSH, the yearly performance, which opens tonight for a two-day, three-show run at Center Stage Theater, had to continue.

“They (SBDA) are at a place where they want to provide services and be a resource for the community,” Mr. Curtis says. “And BASSH is such an important community event, we couldn’t let it die.”

BASSH is Mr. Curtis’ baby, and now its grown up and learning to live independently. In a dance-loving city like our own, it’s a chance for the schools to show off their best, but also to give amateur dancers a chance to show their stuff. Even for ballroom dancers who may be used to the look and feel of a competition, the evening gives them the rare chance to just be the center of attention, a change that can be nerve inducing.

The evening keeps evolving, based on schools and popular dance styles.

“What is different now is that we give the choreographers a chance to go outside the box and bring something fresh to the show,” says Mr. Curtis. “We also have the multimedia aspect and the chance to follow behind the scenes on Facebook.” (Search for BASH Community on the site: note the singular ‘s.’)

BASSH is a brand name, but the dance styles have evolved. The evening features tap dance, African drummers, singers performing in a Broadway style, and a fusion of several styles.

Companies taking part in the evening include Estrellas Unitas Dance Team, Fusion Dance Company, Justbaila! Latin Dance Company, and the Lovie’s Dance Co., while some of the amateurs performing include Robert Taylor, a contractor, and City Councilman Grant House.

Mr. Curtis has been at this so long that students he once taught in elementary school — he teaches at Montessori Center School — are now joining him on stage, like Emmaly Reid, who is now dancing with Fusion. Another former student, Joanne Jacobs will be singing the opening number and dancing the Lindy Hop with Mr. Curtis.

“People don’t realize how much hard work goes into a production, even the technical stuff,” he says. Mr. Curtis does a lot of hand holding, and he’s there to inspire confidence. “You can do this” is one of his most uttered phrases — said to both amateurs and pros who are pushing themselves.

The inevitable result of the evening is that people come to Mr. Curtis and want to be part of the next show. “You can’t help but be inspired when you watch the different styles out there,” he says. “And when you look at the people out there, they’re everyday people who work 9 to 5. And they need an outlet. We all need outlets.”

When: 7 p.m. tonight, 2 and 7 p.m. Saturday
Where: Center Stage Theater, Paseo Nuevo
Cost: $23/$20 for Students and Seniors
Information: 963-0408,

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