Dr. Monica Dabos, an educator by trade and a dancer by heart, is the founder of Yes Dance!, a non-profit organization now located at 705 Paseo Nuevo, on State Street in Santa Barbara. A turbulent upbringing in Argentina and unconventional life choices have instilled in her a deep desire for fostering social inclusion at all levels. Bringing the community together whether teaching statistics or salsa is a passion for Monica and Yes Dance! is a manifestation of that passion. Located among Santa Barbara’s most infinite bar scene, Monica is introducing a new concept to the Santa Barbara community: fun downtown without alcohol. Participants not only learn how to dance salsa, bachata and other Latin dances, but they also develop deep connections with their peers during the open social dances. All ages and skill levels are welcomed, making it possible for parents, children, spouses, students and all other types of people to come together to learn the art of dance. Anyone who walks through the door gets an immediate sense of community when they see mingling between people of various socioeconomic statuses, educational levels, and cultural backgrounds. Monica believes that when alcohol-free alternatives are provided in a family-friendly environment that encourages, supports and values each individual through dance, “Magic Happens.” She wants to expand this magic to other locations Goleta, Isla Vista, and even downtown Santa Barbara. She believes that as a society we need to provide healthy alternatives that are both fun and engaging. What better way to meet new people and become a part of a very special community than through the exhilarating and exciting world of dance.
History and Motivation
Yes You Can Dance Salsa and Bachata
I started this project in January 2013 inspired primarily by Melissa Zaragoza.
Melissa was a student at UCSB when she became the leader of the salsa event at Hillel that was student run for several years before she took it over. This was great because in Isla Vista it was one of the few events, which was alcohol free. That salsa event took place every Monday and about 100 to 150 students participated every week dancing from 9 pm to midnight. It was so amazing to watch!
However, when she went to her geology camp for her degree during the summer time, the event stopped. When she returned from her field trip, a few things had changed including a much larger cost for the facility and it was not possible to continue as it was for the prior 5 years. I saw it disappear in front of my eyes. That broke my heart, really! I could not believe that such a friendly, healthy fun event would stop for lack of monetary support.
When Melissa graduated, she came to my house and handed me $500 that they had collected during her time at the salsa event at Hillel and she entrusted me with it. That touched my heart dearly as she was a graduate student who had not had a job for a few months after graduation; she had no obligation to save that money and less to entrust me with it. In fact no body even knew she had collected that money. The fees were only $1 for the classes and open dance.
After I finished my PhD dissertation at UCSB, I decided to put energy into honoring her work, dedication, and honesty. I want to replicate that atmosphere were 150 young people dancing for three hours without a drop of alcohol.
Then the amazing people from the Ayni Gallery opened the door to my dreams, and we established a solid base. After two year, however, we needed a new venue as the Ayni Gallery was closing. The Santa Barbara Veteran Center opened their doors to us and we moved to our second location. And now, we have moved to 705 Paseo Nuevo on State Street, in the heart of Santa Barbara. The humble beginning that started with only 5 participants now gets from 40 to 70 participants every Tuesday and has an online following of 650, an amazing success story!
Our goal in the community is to provide an alcohol-free, healthy and fun mainstream environment experience to the local Santa Barbara community through Latin and other dance. Dancing is not only a healthy outlet, but also a fun activity, helpful in personal development as well as developing social skills. By its social and non-competitive nature, dancing is particularly adapted to encourage interactions, to develop respect and help people find their place within a community. Anyone can dance, so everyone is welcome! The organization, originated from a student organized alternative dance activity, provides classes adapted to all levels, without restriction of age, gender or origin, offering to all a friendly and encouraging environment to learn and practice. To make sure everybody can benefit from the classes, without budget becoming an issue, the cover is kept to a minimum and remains adaptive for people with lower income or students. Enthusiasts rendezvous each week for a beginner's level class followed by an intermediate class, capped off by some open dancing to practice those new moves.
The organization has now existed for over 4 years and with its increasing success came the question: how can we build from the existing organization, largely based on volunteering, and expand what we have to offer to the community? A first potential direction we see is to reach a larger part of the community. We plan to expand the classes offered by the organization to additional locations in order to accommodate people for whom transportation or working schedules can be problematic. A second direction we see is to give people within the community some possibility of growth. Part of the organization’s success is due to the volunteering teachers who originally learned from the Santa Barbara dancing community. We plan to offer training sessions for interested people to become teachers themselves. The goal is to make sure that the teachers we train are fully aware of the potential difficulties of the beginning dancer, are good listeners and particularly receptive to the values we try to convey in general. Additionally, it gives people the valuable opportunity to develop, share and give back to their community.
Victor Contreras is an AMAZING teacher who has never failed to teach the salsa classes. Since the first day, Victor has given the tools and encouragement and dedication to all salsa learners that has no parallel. He does this without getting paid a penny. He volunteers all his time and dedication. He should get the Volunteer of the Year award in Santa Barbara.
Victor’s dedication to salsa and the local community finds expression every Tuesday night when he assumes his alter-ego as an unpaid volunteer dance instructor. Victor has been sharing his love of salsa (for free!) for over four years, and his friendly, supportive and comfortable teaching style has made him the cynosure of the Santa Barbara dance community. Every individual, no matter their skill level, feels empowered by Victor’s teaching style and his support. It has been said that a salsa session with Victor is the equivalent of five sessions with a counselor (probably an understatement).
Several of our beginner students, as seen in the promotional video of 2013, have grown to doing professional performances around town. Sebastian "Mr. Slick" Lebeau, who was a beginner student in this video, is now one of the most popular dancers at various salsa performance events.
We are fortunate to work really closely with Hector Sanchez who is also a volunteer instructor at our Saturday parties. Hector takes our students to the next salsa dancing level; helping them excel at dancing. He coaches them to do amazing performances at the Lobero Theater and other places in town.
The expansion of this program is tangible with salsa parties to twice a month on Saturdays with the participation of DJ Prince from Eos that is attended by 100 people of all ages. However, I hope to expand it even more; to make it sustainable and hopefully pay the instructors for their time and dedication.
I feel that we as a society may be giving the wrong message if we don't put money or value to the most healthy fun alternatives that exist like this salsa events.
Please be part of this healthy transformation, come, participate, donate, share, help it grow.
Yes Dance! (formerly Yes You Can Dance Salsa and Bachata)
We will be waiting for you 🙂
Daniela Merlino has been dancing for seven years. She was first introduced to Latin dancing through friends who were taking salsa lessons. She found this to be a great way to relax after a hard day at work.
Together, this magnificent duo created JustBaila Salsa, and they feel extremely blessed to have a job that they enjoy so much. Through teaching dance, they have the opportunity to not only meet people from all over the world, but to also make a positive difference in people’s lives. This passion for teaching is what has united them with Yes You Can Dance Salsa since 2014, regularly appearing at our monthly events. They support the goal of strengthening the dance community with a fun and safe environment, where all levels of dancers can enjoy salsa dancing in a positive, healthy, and very family-friendly, atmosphere. They eagerly support and encourage each and every student, as is clearly evident in the enthusiasm they display when they teach.
Hector and Daniela provide private lessons in salsa, bachata, cumbia, cha cha, and rumba, as well as choreography for weddings and Quinceañeras. You can contact them through the Santa Barbara Dance Center, at (805) 899 – 2901 (santabarbaradancecenter.com), as well as attend their regular Friday night classes.
Volunteer Support Team
This is a nonprofit program and everyone who is involved in running the program is a volunteer. As such we are always looking for volunteers to help maintain and increase what we already have.
- Webdesign and updates
- Set up and close down for Saturday parties
- PR representatives
- Teach a Salsa or Bachata class
- Make a play list for teaching and for dancing
- Donate alcohol-free drinks (or find sponsors)
- Play live music for us
- Donate money for helping expand it
My goal is to expand this beautiful venue. All ages dancing and having fun without alcohol. Yes, it's possible! Want to join the team?
Email Monica: YesYouCanDanceSalsa@gmail.com / MonicaDabos@gmail.com
Phone: (805) 669-7098
LONG TERM VOLUNTEERS:
Victor Contreras (Salsa Instructor for 4 years)
Rich Sock (Chocolate Eater-in-training, Loafer-in-chief)
Eléa Bayley de Panofsky (Reception and Fundraiser ambassador)
Gregoire Jacob (Fundraiser ambassador and Gregoire has provided all of the snacks for the last 4 years)
Cristina Dabos-Vicente (Reception and email manager)
Amber Grubenmann (Photographer)
Kam Kunimoto (Advertising video production)
Miguel Soto (DJ Prince)
Byron Lopez (DJ Byron)