Heartstrings Connector

Dance theater company raises money for others

By Jessica Laskey
June 2024

The way Jacob Gutiérrez-Montoya sees it, “my whole life has been about intersections, how paths cross, and what can grow from that.”

Gutiérrez-Montoya has worn many hats in his decades as a creative in Sacramento and beyond. From a young age, he was involved in theater and dance. He majored in dance at University of Nevada, Las Vegas.

His professional career as a performer, choreographer and dance educator carried him around the world, but he’s still connected to home.

In 2010, he started teaching dance at Hawkins School of Performing Arts in Folsom and became co-owner in 2016. Next month, he takes over as majority owner. He also works as B Street Theatre’s director of development and community partnerships.

Gutiérrez-Montoya’s proudest professional achievement is Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre, a nonprofit company he founded in 2014.

“I always felt this need to create something personal,” Gutiérrez-Montoya says over coffee near the Oak Park home he shares with his husband, Elio, and two dogs. “I always thought, what am I making (art) for? My heart and mind were seeking a purpose behind the creation. I wanted to surround myself with people who care about doing good in the world.”
Contemporary Dance Theatre is the culmination of that desire. The company partners with regional nonprofits for fundraising performances throughout the year.

Past (and often recurring) partners include Agape International, Habitat for Humanity, NorCal Services for Deaf & Hard of Hearing, Saint John’s Program for Real Change, Shriners Children’s of Northern California and more.

Each performance has a “heartstrings connection” to its partner. One company member is an American Sign Language interpreter, so the 2016 performance integrated sign language with contemporary dance to benefit Camp Grizzly, a Calaveras County center for deaf, hard of hearing and children of deaf adults.

Because many Contemporary Dance Theatre collaborators work to combat complex problems, such as human trafficking, homelessness, mental health and life-threatening illnesses, Gutiérrez-Montoya doesn’t shy from tough topics with his dancers.

“Our company is all 18 or older because we feature mature content and have conversations about the world that are hard. We want this to be a safe space to talk freely,” he says.

Deep involvement in the community leads to cool projects. There’s the “I Got Your Back” campaign founded by Mulvaney’s B&L owners Bobbin and Patrick Mulvaney. The project addresses mental health struggles in the restaurant industry.

Contemporary Dance Theatre’s performance “Behind the Apron” benefited the campaign and is included in a documentary that premieres on PBS in July.

The dance company celebrates 10 years of service June 14 at The Sofia. The performance features 10-minute excerpts from each of the past shows. A photography exhibit by Chris Kisela of CMYK Photography featuring SCDT dancers is displayed upstairs in The Sofia’s Jacquelyn Gallery Annex for two months.

Gutiérrez-Montoya feels reflective about the anniversary. He recalls that the first grant Contemporary Dance Theatre received was $1,000 in 2015 from the Bee. Earlier this year, the company was awarded a $30,000 grant from Kaiser Permanente.

Now Gutiérrez-Montoya looks ahead.

“I’m already thinking, what does 20 years look like?” he says. “I think our partnerships speak volumes. These are pillars of our community and we’re standing with them. It helps you see that what you’re doing in the world matters.”

SCDT’s 10th anniversary show is June 14 at 7 p.m. at The Sofia, 2700 Capitol Ave. For tickets and information, visit scdtheatre.org.

Jessica Laskey can be reached at jessrlaskey@gmail.com. Follow us on Facebook and Instagram: @insidesacramento.

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