#NextGen Santa Barbara Dance Icon

Brittany Sandoval

A few months ago I was stumbling to keep up at Tamarr Paul’s insane (for me) hip hop class.  We were about 20 minutes and three eight-counts in (which translates into approximately 4,506 moves in the world of Tamarr) when a young woman slid in the back door – she was beautiful… and late to class.  “She’ll never catch up,” I thought to myself. Because no one could possibly catch up. No way.

Ha.  She did.  Twenty seconds later (only a slight exaggeration), she had nailed the choreo and was sinking into every quarter beat like she was performing for a full house. I actually stopped dancing to watch her. When you see pure talent, you know it.

After class, I had to apologize to her for staring: “I mean this in a totally non-creepy-stalker-‘Single White Female’ type of way, but I love watching you dance…”  She laughed and offered to help me with my moves.  WHAT?  Dance genius without an over-the-top ego?  What?  Does that even happen?  Apparently, it does.

That phenomenal dancer is Brittany Sandoval. 

Flash forward to yesterday when I got to interview Brittany backstage at the Majorie Luke Theater, where the Santa Barbara Dance Arts dancers were immersed in dress and tech rehearsals for this weekend’s Spring Recital. I was already a huge fan of her dancing, but now I'm even more impressed by how much this young woman has done for Santa Barbara’s young dancers.

So here’s a quick glimpse into Brittany’s backstory, and my unabashed pitch for why we need to be celebrating her:

A genuine, home-grown Santa Barbarian, Brittany attended Peabody Charter School, La Colina Jr. High, and San Marcos High before transferring and graduating from Dos Pueblos High School. Her dancing career started at age five, and while she tried a few other sports along the way like soccer, softball and basketball, none of them stuck with her the way dancing had.  These sports, “don’t have the consistency dancing has,” she explained.  “And I’m not a big fan of chasing a ball around,” she added with a smile. 

At age eleven she returned to dance, first studying jazz dance before the pivotal moment a year later when she discovered hip hop. “I dropped everything else and started studying hip hop full force,” Brittany said.  A year later she performed for the first time at BASSH!, which she would do for the next six consecutive years. She soon began creating original choreography for Santa Barbara Dance Arts recitals. By age sixteen (wow), she was already teaching hip hop classes at Santa Barbara Dance Arts. And at age nineteen Brittany began branching out, teaching at local elementary schools.

Brittany is now 24, but is one of the few full-time career dancers in Santa Barbara… and it’s not easy to be a fully employed artist in Santa Barbara (I see you all nodding vigorously).  In addition to being one of Santa Barbara Dance Arts’ busiest instructors (she teaches hip hop, jazz and creative movement to students ages 3 to adult), she also teaches at elementary schools throughout the Santa Barbara, Hope and Carpinteria School Districts. She choreographs for Santa Barbara Dance Arts (she choreographed thirteen of the pieces in this weekend’s Santa Barbara Dance Arts' Spring Recital), as well as for the Dos Pueblos, San Marcos and Santa Barbara High School Dance Teams and Cheer squads. 

Brittany’s performance CV is equally as impressive. In addition to performing multiple times at BASSH!, she was a runner up on ABC’s “Family Dance Off” with host Derek Hough.  She also danced at the Sketchers Twinkle Toes DVD movie release event, and performed at Pulse on Tour in front of choreographers Mia Micaels, Lori Ann Gibson, Brian Friedman, Tyce Diorio.  Her fondest memories, though, are of performing with Santa Barbara Dance Arts.  She has participated in the studio’s End-of-Year Show since 2001.

Time for a quick video interlude of Brittany's dance talent:)

Okay... one more -- this time it's from Tamarr Paul's hip hop class.  Just because it's just so fun to watch:

Okay. You’re all impressed – which you should be.  But even more impressive than seeing Brittany dance is seeing her in action with her young dance students. It takes a very special person to train, guide, and inspire kids, and you can see their eyes their eyes when someone’s knocking it out of the park (apologies for the softball reference). I watched Brittany run a group of six-year olds through this rigorous tech rehearsal, never once losing her infectious smile.  She then seamlessly transitioned them into a group photo session, making silly faces to get them to smile on cue.  She made it all look EASY.  And that’s when you know you’re seeing rare talent in motion.

As we wrapped up, I asked her if she had any advice for dancers.  Without hesitating, she offered these suggestions:

1)   Don’t ever use intimidation as an excuse to quit. There’s always going to be someone who dances better than you.  Use them to push yourself to improve.

2)   Ditto for setbacks. Brittany told us about trying out for, but not making the San Marcos High Dance Team. “I thought this meant I wasn’t a dancer,” she said. Luckily, Santa Barbara Dance Arts Owner and Director Alana Tillim encouraged Brittany to use the disappointment as motivation to try even harder. The experience also led Brittany toward cheerleading, an in-school activity which allowed Brittany to spend more time at the dance studio training after school. We’d like to thank the SMHS Dance Squad for their fateful decision because it helped Brittany become the amazing person she is today. Oh… ironically, Brittany now choreographs routines for the SMHS Dance Squad.

3)   If you’re having a bad day, get yourself to a dance class. It’s the best place to release tensions and “let it all go.”

Don’t miss Brittany’s choreography and her awesome students in action at Santa Barbara Dance Arts' Spring Recital show this weekend (May 15th and 16th) at the Majorie Luke Theater (click here for info).  These kids will remember the Spring Recital this weekend their whole lives.  And they will remember Brittany, not only for how she brought the joy of dance into their lives, but for the inspiration she provided them to become better dancers… and better people.

Thank you, Brittany!!!!