Sky’s the limit for enthusiastic Savannah Hoover
Savannah Hoover didn’t realize she was airborne. At least not to this extent.
The Junior Spirit of Fiesta impressed the Stow House audience when she leaped during her recent Fiesta Ranchera performance in Goleta. She landed without missing a beat and kept smiling, kept dancing.
No wonder she’s called the Junior Spirit.
“I didn’t know that I jumped that high,” said Savannah, 9, who, on the day after Fiesta Ranchera, saw News-Press photographer Kenneth Song’s picture of her in action
Savannah likes all that action and the freedom to express herself as she realizes her dream of being the Junior Spirit and getting to perform in front of the Santa Barbara Mission. That’s where she and her mother, Kelly Hoover, talked to the News-Press this week in anticipation of Old Spanish Days, aka Fiesta, set for Aug. 4-8 in various Santa Barbara locations.
“I feel so lucky that I’m able to dance in such a beautiful place,” Savannah said, sitting on a bench with the mission behind her. “I feel it’s such a beautiful stage. You get to dance in front of all these people, which is amazing. I can’t believe I’m able to do it.
And Savannah is happy to be the Junior Spirit at a time when the Fiesta is looking more like a traditional one after last year’s celebration, which was modified because of COVID-19 restrictions.
With the state’s recent reopening, Fiesta is resuming its mercados and the big shows — Fiesta Pequeña at the Santa Barbara Mission and Noches de Ronda and Tardes de Ronda at the Santa Barbara County Sunken Gardens.
Savannah, a Santa Barbara resident who will be a fourth-grader this fall at Hollister Elementary School in Goleta, has already performed. In addition to shows at various locations in a single night at Fiesta Ranchera, she and Spirit of Fiesta Ysabella Yturralde danced during La Primavera at the Carriage & Western Art Museum in Santa Barbara.
“What I love about being the Junior Spirit is I’ve already been to so many new places, and I’ve met so many new people,” Savannah said. “I feel so lucky to be representing Old Spanish Days. I feel very honored.”
Savannah said she and Ysabella are close and go to each other’s homes to do each other’s hair.
“The Spirit is amazing,” Savannah said. “She’s really kind and such a beautiful dancer. I feel like I’m her little sister. We make presents and give them to each other.”
Savannah said she’s been to every Fiesta since she was about 2 and was impressed with the flamenco dancing. She felt inspired to learn the dance style and has been studying since she was 3 at the Zermeno Dance Academy in Goleta.
“What I like about dancing is you can really express your emotions through it,” Savannah said. “If it’s strong music, you can really feel that and have a little more serious face. Then if it’s a little playful, you can smile.”
Like Ysabella, Savannah found ballet too slow for her. She preferred the faster dynamics of flamenco.
Savannah said her friends have been supportive of her work as a dancer and Junior Spirit. When they attend her shows, they give her flowers afterward.
As Savannah talked, her proud mother listened.
“Savannah just always has had a spark,” she said. “Of course, I see her through my mommy’s goggles.
“She expresses kindness and joy. She loses herself in the moment and is able to express her love for dance,” Mrs. Hoover said. “I think that’s what makes her a beautiful dancer.”
Others in the family share Mrs. Hoover’s pride of Savannah. Her father, Tim Hoover, is creative director at Yardi Systems (a real estate software company), and Savannah, the youngest, has three brothers: Chase, 17; Luke, 16; and Grant, 13. Mrs. Hoover is the community relations manager for the city of Goleta.
Savannah appreciates the fact that she has fans in her family.
“I feel very lucky to have older brothers who are supportive of me.” Savannah said. “They’re always there. After my show, I go and hug them.”
When Savannah isn’t dancing (and leaping in the air), she plays soccer, basketball and tennis. She’s been a right forward and striker for the Santa Barbara Soccer Club.
At age 9, Savannah already has a career in sight.
“I’ve always loved animals,” said Savannah, whose family has Sandy, a golden retriever, and Sugar, a chinchilla Persian. “What I really want to do when I get older is be an animal rescuer.”