When husband and wife Eric Valinsky and Carrie Diamond left New York City’s bustling dance scene to move to Santa Barbara in 2002, they knew they wanted to not only perform and showcase their work, but also be involved in dance education for the Santa Barbara community.
The two left long and successful careers in New York City. Mr. Valinsky composed and directed, and Mrs. Diamond worked as a choreographer and instructor at several dance schools.
But in 2005, the couple founded Ballet Santa Barbara, changing the name to American Dance & Music Co. when they incorporated as a nonprofit the next year. Over the next decade, the couple used their considerable experience to bring together dancers in the community not yet a part of a company or enrolled in classes.
“At that time there were some really great dancers roaming around Santa Barbara who weren’t affiliated with State Street Ballet. They were just on their own looking for stuff to do. So they started coming to my class and that’s when I was like, ‘Oh, we should probably do some of my work that I was showing in New York. I’ve got these really good dancers, why not?’ ” said Mrs. Diamond.
With Mrs. Diamond as executive and artistic director and Mr. Valinksy as secretary and music director, American Dance & Music Co. grew in popularity.
But as more people enrolled and classes were added, the couple were unable to find a permanent space to call home for over a decade.
“We always believed that having a space would change everything for us. We believed it would change everything for the organization to have a home place where people know who we were. You know that thing; you have a space and people know more about you,” said Mrs. Diamond.
Finally, after moving from place to place, they found a home at the old Remnant Store at 22 E. Victoria St. in 2017, and the American Dance & Music Hub was born. The space is owned by People’s Self-Help Housing, and the couple said their assistance is largely what made opening the Dance Hub possible.
the Dance Hub features two huge professional dance studios as well as a smaller room for additional dance and acting classes. The new floors are a pride and joy for Mrs. Diamond and Mr. Valinsky. Called floating floors, they are specially designed to distribute weight on impact, and locals have said it’s the best dance floor in town.
“We knew that in order to have a great studio you have to have the best floor,” said Mrs. Diamond.
Since its opening, the American Dance & Music Hub has truly become just that: a hub for Santa Barbara’s thriving dance community. This is thanks to Mrs. Diamond and Mr. Valinsky’s decision to make the company a nonprofit, which opened up a lot of opportunities, the couple said.
The Dance Hub is able to enlist community support to keep space the way it is and put in improvements, run scholarship programs and get support from the city.
Now the Dance Hub offers a robust series of classes in a variety of styles for dancers of all skill levels, with 11 instructors teaching on a weekly basis. Single classes begin at $20, with discounts offered for purchases of five, 10, and 20 classes. First-time or experienced dancers can take classes in modern dance, flamenco, bellydancing, or Mrs. Diamond’s specialty, ballet. Mrs. Diamond teaches several ballet classes, and said that it is an essential element of dance.
“Ballet is the basis for pretty much all western dance, performance dance,” she said, “If you’re going to perform, that’s what’s at the core, what you need to dance effectively.”
The Dance Hub rents out to various local instructors, who set their own rates for their classes. One of the most popular instructors at the Dance Hub is Ken Gilbert, who has been teaching his EMBODYMENT classes for 30 years. Mr. Gilbert teaches six classes a week at the Dance Hub.
The Dance Hub’s high quality studios and proximity to some of the best theaters in town have begun to attract ensembles that rent spaces to rehearse for upcoming performances. Recently, Dianne Vapnek’s Dance Works needed rehearsal space before its event at the Lobero and rented space at the Dance Hub for two days. In November, the Dance Hub will open rehearsal space for the Dance Theater of Harlem. Companies are starting to take notice, the couple said.
“We’re finally on the radar of Arts and Lectures,” said Mrs. Diamond.
Interested readers can find the Dance Hub’s schedule of classes and events at https://adam-bsb.org. More classes will be added to the Dance Hub’s programming, including dance classes for teens.
The Dance Hub also puts on events throughout the year, like its annual event Up Close at the Dance Hub where choreographers who use the Dance Hub showcase their work and engage the audience in their performances.
Locals can catch the upcoming tribute to modern dance legend Albert Reid and contribute to the Dance Hub at “Albert Reid: A Tribute to his Illustrious Life in Modern Dance” starting at 6 p.m. Oct 11 at the Dance Hub.The celebration will feature archival film footage, live dance and music performances, refreshments, and tributes to Mr. Reid by members of the Santa Barbara dance community. Tickets are available for $100-$250 and will go toward expanded programming and physical improvements at the Dance Hub. Tickets and more information can be found at https://adam-bsb.org/events/albert-reid/.