Can’t stop moving: Momentum ignites competitive dance in Santa Barbara

Betsy Woyach moved to Santa Barbara a year ago with years of dance experience under her belt, ready to start a family and be closer to her mother and aunt. She had been teaching on and off in town, along with performing in BASSH, and knew how much our town loved dance. And she spotted the one thing we didn’t have.

“There was no competitive dance,” she says. “I grew up in a completely competitive dance arena where every studio went to competitions.”

Having grown up in Atlanta, indeed, that’s all she did. Every year was about making it into regionals and nationals. Santa Barbara, she says, focuses on the performance, and so she found her niche fast. The Momentum Dance Company was born and this Wednesday and Thursday their first ever Company Concert comes to Center Stage Theater.

The evening focuses on the five groups under Momentum’s umbrella: The Mini Company for children 6 to 9 years, the Junior Company for those 9 to 12 years, the Teen Company, the Senior company for teens 15 to 18 years, and the Pro Company for college age on up. Dancers perform in the contemporary, lyrical, jazz, hip hop and tap genres.

At the beginning of the season, Momentum sets the pieces it will take to competition, and then it rehearses them all season long. Wednesday and Thursday nights’ performance is a “dress rehearsal,” in front of an audience, not judges, with a focus on solo pieces, as young as six years old.

Then it is off to regionals in places like Long Beach, Anaheim or Pasadena.

“There is an incredible amount of talent here in the company,” Ms. Woyach says. “There are kids here who have wanted it since I’ve been teaching in Santa Barbara. I see the potential of wanting to grow and because Santa Barbara is such a small town, they look around and see . . . a small-town mindset. But a lot of them have the ability and talent to do regional and nationals. A lot of them didn’t know competitions existed.”

Ms. Woyach says she was like that too in high school before she found a competition studio. “I didn’t even know you could dance as a career,” she said. “I thought I’d have to stop dancing when I graduated.” But that Atlanta studio took her and her team out to Los Angeles and that changed her life. She realized she could do this for the rest of her life.

“Competition turned me into who I am today, and it kept me out of trouble,” she adds.

Having been part of the Santa Barbara dance community, Ms. Woyach is impressed with the amount of amazing choreographers and dance teachers in Santa Barbara. She is looking to bring some of them on next year to help share the load, especially when an evening like this features 26 pieces.

Her pro company currently features Taylor Atelian, Pablo Gatica, Zoe Steele and Makayla Yoshimoto, while the Senior features Kylie Transki, Tori Biancone and Emily Eyman. The Teen company consists of Amber Tharakan, Sophia Cordero, Kailani Cordero, Ciara Giordani, Dia Rabin and Reese Oleary. The Juniors include Michael Hayes, Jaz Gordon, Sontene Sedlin and Ally Jacobs, and the “Mini” company features Kasey Hartman, Presley Krintzman, Kiyomi Klonowski and Amara Manning.

Currently the company rents spaces out of Adderly School, the Carrillo Rec Center and Montecito School of Ballet. But if everything goes as planned, come January, the company will have its own rehearsal space downtown at Olive and Ortega.

With Thursday’s performance already sold out, this looks to be a successful debut.

“Momentum 1st Annual Company Concert”
When: 7 p.m. Wednesday and Thursday
Where: Center Stage Theater, Paseo Nuevo
Cost: $20
Information: 963-0408, www.centerstagetheater.org or www.MomentumDanceSB.com

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