Yes News, January 2019

Yes News: What’s New with Yes Dance

January 2019, 1/1

Celebrate Six Years with Yes Dance!

The Party

Mark your calendar for Saturday (Jan 26, 2019). Celebrate six years of Yes Dance—building community, where social dancing without alcohol is the new norm. Enjoy dance instruction throughout the day. Social dance with DJ Charlie from 9:30 pm to 2 am. Door prizes, dance performances by Yes Dance Fusion (Steven Matsumura’s team) and Yes Dance Global (led by Jayven Colon), cake, and a photo both. Cost is $10 for members and $15 for nonmembers. Become a member. Don’t miss our celebration of you—the Yes Dance community.

First Move: When Monica Met Victor (2 + 4 = 2,300)

Back where it all started at Anyi Gallery six years ago (2013), Yes Dance founder Monica Dabos and first instructor Victor Contreras share a dip.

How did 4 dancers grow to a community of 2,300+ in six years? It’s a story about the tenacious pursuit of a vision. It’s a story about how that vision was based on a radically different idea—alcohol free dancing and socializing. It’s a story about how a community formed and supported each other and the vision time and time again. But first, it’s a story about two dancers meeting.

Monica Dabos and Victor Contreras were both regulars at a salsa social dance in Goleta. As soon as Monica danced with Victor, she knew he had rhythm. At the time, he was teaching himself to dance by studying YouTube videos. Every week, he’d have a new move. And he’d work on it until he was able to lead it. 

Monica had a vision—a studio where anyone could learn and enjoy dancing alcohol free. Now that vision included Victor. His patience, that he judged his knowledge by her ability to follow his lead, and his joy made him the perfect person to start the studio with. So she asked if you would join her and teach a class. He said yes, pretty sure she wouldn’t follow through.

But she did. Two locations later, the four original students have flourished into a 2,300+-member community, dancing seven days a week at the Paseo Nuevo studio. The anniversary party is a celebration of the countless ways the community has stepped up over the past six years to keep the Yes Dance vision going and to support each other. 

The Highs and the Lows

Dancers of all ages enjoy Dancing under the Stars in the courtyard near the Yes Dance Paseo Nuevo Studio.

Monica easily lists the highs. What’s she most proud of? “The amount of people we serve.” Her favorite moments looking back?  “When entire families come and dance together. When I see teens dancing with their grandparents, it melts my heart,” she says. “And I know I’m doing something right.” She gets the same feeling when it’s 2 am and she look around and sees young people dancing and having a good time without alcohol.

That was the part she thought would be difficult—getting people excited about building a community around the alcohol-free concept. But it hasn’t been. The rapid, enthusiastic growth of the community rallying around the vision has blown her away. It’s what has kept her going through the lows, too. There’ve been a few—mostly financial. (Those who know her will tell you that’s, in part, attributable to her generosity.) Another challenge has been ensuring the mission comes first and all the moving administrative parts are dancing to the same tune, so to speak.

New Moves: Vision for the Next Six Years

Monica wouldn’t be Monica if she didn’t have a plan. “I want a bigger space. I want live music, karaoke nights, hangouts, multiple dance floors, a patio,” Monica says. “My vision hasn’t changed. It keeps going … slowly.”

Monica’s slow is others’ high speed. She has a specific plan in mind for the next big move. Just as Victor skillfully led his partners through each new move he learned, Monica has skillfully guided each new move for Yes Dance. Stay tuned for the big reveal next month.

Three of the many group photos of Yes Dance (top left) at Anyi Gallery, circa 2014; (right) Veteran’s Center, 2017; (bottom) the Paseo Nuevo studio, 2018.

Yes Dance in the Indy

Monica Dabos (photo by PAUL WELLMAN)

The Santa Barbara Independent‘s “S.B. Questionnaire” featured Monica’s vision for the Yes Dance community in its Jan 21 issue.

Check out “Talking Meditation, Math, and Alcohol-Free Fun with the Founder of Yes Dance.”

The Grant That Kept the Doors Open

Finances for Yes Dance before the fire and flood of late 2017 we’re tight. Afterward, keeping the studio open seemed increasingly impossible. Founder Monica Dabos had been struggling to stay afloat for nearly a year when she learned about a grant that seemed tailored for Yes Dance. In December 2018, Yes Dance was awarded a $10,000 Business Recovery Grant from Women’s Economic Venture (WEV) and Wells Fargo.

Recipients of the Women’s Economic Venture / Wells Fargo Business Recovery grant in December 2018 included Yes Dance. The grant came just in time and renewed the hope of founder Monica Dabos, who’d been struggling to keep the studio doors open since the fire and mudslide of late 2017.

The grant is part the City of Santa Barbara’s efforts to revamp downtown and help businesses who’d suffered after the Thomas Fire and Montecito Debris Flow. Monica learned about it through Nicki Parr of WEV. Parr explained that preferred attributes for grantees included female Latina owners whose organizations aimed to do good in society—check, check, check. Monica, originally from Argentina, started Yes Dance with an idea so simple it’s easy to miss its transformative nature: She wanted to build community, where alcohol-free socializing and dancing was the new norm. Her methods include radical inclusivity and kindness. All are welcome. Community members are celebrated and supported. And over six years, Yes Dance has grown from 2 instructors and 4 dancers to a 2,300+ multigenerational, diverse community who rally around each other. Countless connections have been formed. A few dancers have even met their life partners. And the Yes Dance community has welcomed more than one new baby into the mix.

So to say it wasn’t easy for Monica to consider closing the doors is an understatement. But the studio had been forced to close for fifteen days due to air quality. Then after the debris flow, Monica (who lived in Summerland at the time) had been able to get to the studio or work for days. Rent and bills were still due.

Parr’s call came just in time. Monica attended WEV’s workshop to apply for the recovery grant two weeks before the application was due. When she learned she was among the recipients (a total of $300,000 was awarded), it was “amazing! It gave me new hope,” she says.

The grant is to be used to promote Yes Dance and generally help the studio recover.

For Monica, just as important as the money is the training that comes along with it. Grant recipients will also receive training about how to make good financial decisions and employ strong resilience and risk management strategies. Monica has already signed up for three training sessions.

On January 26, 2019, Yes Dance will celebrate its sixth anniversary. Monica can’t wait to use this grant and her new financial knowledge to see what the next six years will bring. And she has big plans for growth.

Teacher Feature: Victor Contreras

Try Yes Dance! You just might find something life-changing.

Victor Contreras

Victor Contreras, along with founder Monica Dabos, was Yes Dance’s first instructor. For six years, he has volunteered his time and skill, teaching two hours every week in order to share the joy of dancing with everyone who comes to Yes Dance. For Monica, “Victor alone is the reason Yes Dance! exists and the reason we’re still here six years later—his unflinching determination and motivation have kept us going.” He says it’s Monica’s tenacity, a drive he doesn’t quite have words for, that has made Yes Dance the flourishing community it is.

The Perfect Launch Partner

Victor and his then future wife Julie at the Anyi Gallery, the first Yes Dance location.

From the first time Yes Dance founder Monica met Victor, she knew he had rhythm. Not too long after that, she knew he would make the perfect partner to launch her vision of a dance studio—a community—where all were welcome, and everyone danced and socialized without alcohol. The two met at a regular salsa social dance, and Victor practiced the moves he was learning on YouTube, judging his knowledge of each new move on her ability to follow. He was kind, he was insistent, and he invested a lot of energy into learning. Soon, Monica says, he was one of the best dancers in the room. When he would attend dances at Soho—arriving at midnight after work—he was a sought-after partner. Everyone wanted to dance with him. So she asked: Would he teach a salsa class if she found the students and space?

For Victor, when he said yes, he figured it was just one of those things said in passing—an idea that would never be anything more. When Monica came the following week and asked, “When can you start?” he was surprised.

The Patient, Joyful Teacher

Victor teaching at the new Yes Dance studio in Paseo Nuevo.

“Pretty soon, we were teaching,” Victor recalls with a smile. At first they had four students. It wasn’t long till more started coming. Victor enjoyed teaching and the people he was meeting. “Back then, not that many people were teaching salsa,” he says. “It was kind of a guarded skill.” He wanted to share the joy he’d found with others.

Monica says Victor was encouraging and friendly and gave each of the students personalized attention. It’s a feature of his teaching that has continued for six years, even as the number of students has grown exponentially.

His favorite thing to teach? The basics. The fancy moves are fun, he says, but the basics make everything else possible. So he likes to help dancers master the foundation. And he’s good at it. Everyone loves dancing with Victor; he makes newbies feel like pros.

His favorite thing about teaching? Seeing others have “that click moment I had back in the day—when people go from being nervous to realizing, Hey, this is a lot of fun.” He notes dancers don’t turn back after that moment. “They get into a healthy activity and just keep going.”

The Husband and Father

The best thing Victor got out of Yes Dance? A wife and kid! Victor met Julieta dancing at Anyi. Fast-forward a few years and the now married couple have a two-year-old, Benicio.

Victor and Julie’s wedding

The wedding was a true Yes Dance story. (Watch the wedding video.) The couple had planned a small courthouse union, with just four witnesses. That all changed after they asked Monica to officiate. “Victor had given to the community for years,” Monica says. “It was a perfect opportunity for us to give back.”

Monica told Victor and Julie she would handle everything. And she did. All the newlyweds knew ahead of time was when and where to show up. “And it was a better wedding than any I’ve seen,” says Victor.

“It was incredible,” Monica says. The Yes Dance community stepped up. There were three photographers, a limousine, souvenirs, food and a beautiful cake, decorations and flower arrangements, and a night at El Encanto hotel for the newlyweds. All was donated by Yes Dance members. Oh and, yes, there was dancing—two dance floors each with its own DJ.

Why Yes Dance?

For anyone considering trying out Yes Dance, Victor says, “Try it! You never know. You just might find something life-changing.”

Behind-the-Scenes Spotlight: Tom Vasquez

While Tom Vasquez has moved on to follow other pursuits, his efforts will long be felt and appreciated among the Yes Dance community. “He was an essential part of making it happen,” says Yes Dance founder Monica Dabos. “We needed a DJ, he was a DJ. We needed a flyer, he made a flyer. From Instagram to YouTube videos to photos and much more, Tom gave of his time and skills. “He stepped up,” Monica says, “and he did it for a long time.”

Tom was a regular Yes Dance student when he realized music for classes and socials came from a boom box, and there was no DJ. He figured out how to get speakers, lights, and a soundboard. He became then DJ. Then he noticed that Yes Dance didn’t have a huge Facebook presence, so he started taking pictures and putting them on Facebook. Next came videos, flyers, and swag to share with the community. “He’s always been full of great ideas to celebrate not only the dancers but also the members of the larger community,” Monica says. “He became the director of public relations. He did that for several years without fail, and he did it all voluntarily. He has been a cornerstone to getting us where we are right now. We will miss him, and the Yes Dance community will remember with gratefulness all that he did.” 

Tom Vasquez with Victor Contreras at Victor’s wedding.

YDHow did you become involved with Yes Dance?

Tom. I was invited to attend a monthly salsa bash (back when it was Yes You Can Dance and we met at the Ayni Gallery) and became hooked by the friendly atmosphere. I began attending classes but was immediately drafted by Monica to help set up the room. Because of the way Victor and Monica treated everyone who walked in, I knew this was a special organization and felt a need to give back. After a while, Monica expressed a need for assistance with advertising on Facebook and the (much simpler) website, so I used my contacts in the advertising and social media world to learn how to assist with these functions. By the time the studio was ready to open, I had learned to strategize our advertising campaign to take us from a word-of-mouth organization to the first-found result on Google.Y

YDHow has this community changed or influenced your life?

Tom. I find a purpose in what I do that I don’t find in other interests or jobs. Being willing to tailor my skills to the needs of the studio and seeing the impact, immediate or otherwise, that it has on guests, lets me know that rewards come in many forms and what makes them meaningful is to simply appreciate them.

YDWhat are your other interests and hobbies besides dance?

Tom. I’ve become a Marvel movie geek over the past few years, and my Star Wars geekdom has begun to burn brighter in recent times as well. When I’m not working one of my three jobs, I go to karaoke. I had a passion for hiking that I want to reignite, and my goal is to get the most out of my season pass to Magic Mountain this year. Because road trips are fun!

Member Highlight: Karina Amaro

Karina Amaro is a part of Yes Dance Global Bachata dance team, which will be performing at the Yes Dance 6thanniversary celebration on Saturday (Jan 26, 2019). Her enthusiasm and joy are a wonderful addition to the Yes Dance community.

YDHow did you become involved with Yes Dance studio?

Karina Amaro and her daughter

Karina. I always grew up around music and dance but never found the opportunity to study it/try it in a structured setting. I was exposed to many types of dance while living away in New York City, and when I returned to Santa Barbara I was determined to eventually take a legitimate dance class. So, one day a friend and I decided to try a Yes Dance salsa class, and I ended up loving it. Now, I have become a very regular member of Yes Dance!

YDHow has this community changed or influenced your life?

Karina. The Yes Dance community has positively influenced my life in so many ways. Mentally and physically dancing is a great way to keep your mind and body active, but socially it’s just as great of a tool. I have met many wonderful people from many walks of life, and I’ve made some great friends that I may not have met otherwise.

YDWhat are your other interests and hobbies besides dance?

Karina. I spend a lot of my time learning. I have a three-year old daughter who is constantly teaching me about life and about myself. I am also studying to become a clinical lab scientist, which has taken an overwhelming amount of work but has been an awesome journey.  

Renewable Monthly Passes! The Hottest Way to Yes Dance

Renewable Monthly Passes are the newest perks for Yes Dance members.

Renewable Monthly Pass Options for Members

  • Silver pass                   $49 or $69*     Unlimited classes and social dances
  • Gold pass                    $150                 Full access – unlimited classes, social dances, and 5-week workshops, plus access to all special eventsents

*The self-selected sliding scale allows Yes Dance to keep prices affordable for everyone and enables community members to help each other. You choose what you can afford. Choosing the higher option helps Yes Dance members whose finances are a little tighter stay involved.

The skinny: Renewable monthly passes work great for members who dance or take classes weekly. Come to any social dance or class. Learn multiple styles. Check the schedule whenever you have free time, need exercise, or crave community and try out whatever’s on the Yes Dance menu. The full access Gold pass is perfect for members who want to access all things Yes Dance VIP style. Think of it as your personal gym—only you get to socialize, be part of a supportive community, take workshops to hone skills in various styles, and even enjoy a slice of cake to celebrate a special day now and then while you exercise.

Compare to Pay-as-You-Go Rates

                                                For Members                          For Nonmembers

  • Classes                              $10                                         $15
  • Social dances                   $10                                         $15

The skinny: Membership—$60 (family of 3), $50 (family of 2), or $30 (one person)/yr.—not only lowers your rates every time you come to Yes Dance, it also gives you access to perks like the Renewable Monthly Pass. Join now.

There are many ways to enjoy Yes Dance! Our goal is to ensure everyone who wants to dance with us can. For some of our members, costs can be prohibitive. Others are comfortable financially. Offering self-selected sliding scale options (you choose what you can afford/contribute) is one of the many ways we strive for equity, enable community members to help each other, and model community-supported growth.

Yes News managing editor, Holly Starley.

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