Dancing Into South Park: A Conversation with Josh Grant and Chris Montoya

When dancers Josh Grant and Chris Montoya began scouting locations for a new Seattle dance school, they didn't necessarily target the South Park neighborhood. But its location off the beaten track in relation to Seattle's traditional arts institutions became South Park's selling point. Dance Conservatory Seattle has been up and running there for more than a year, and South Park is having as big an impact on the school as the school has had on the neighborhood.


"I want to bring access to people that look like me, that act like me. The community has just been so friendly and supportive and so welcoming. It felt like I had come home." -- Chris Montoya

Vivian and Marcie talk to Josh and Chris about their vision for a school that welcomes everyone, no matter their gender, sexual orientation, race, or body type. And the couple talks about all the ways they've grown to love their new neighbors in South Park.




Man in a black tank top holds the hand of a man in ballet pointe shoes while two poodle dogs sit nearby
Josh Grant and Chris Montoya in the studio with their poodles

 

ABOUT THE EPISODE'S GUESTS


Joshua Grant has been involved in the ballet field for over three decades and has had a professional ballet career spanning over two decades. Mr. Grant began his training at the age of three in Huntsville, AL, and continued to train throughout his entire school years at various schools around the country including the Greenville Ballet School (Greenville, SC) and the Northwest Florida Ballet (Fort Walton Beach, FL). Mr. Grant trained extensively in the Russian Vaganova technique at The Harid Conservatory (Boca Raton, FL) before graduating high school and moving to Seattle, WA to train at the Pacific Northwest Ballet School. At eighteen years of age, in 2001, Mr. Grant was invited to join the company of Pacific Northwest Ballet by Kent Stowell and Francia Russell where he danced various roles in the company's repertoire. In 2004, Mr. Grant moved to Toronto, ON, Canada, and joined the National Ballet of Canada, dancing and creating roles by choreographers James Kudelka, John Cranko, and Mikhail Fokine. In 2006, Mr. Grant joined Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, an all-male international touring company which uniquely and specifically parodies the great classical ballets. Mr. Grant toured the world exclusively as a principal dancer to locations which included Japan, Russia, Greece, France, The United Kingdom, Australia, Italy, Chile, Mexico, and Brazil before returning to Seattle to rejoin Pacific Northwest Ballet in 2011. Since returning to Seattle, Mr. Grant has danced soloist and principal roles in the bulk of the company’s repertoire, eventually garnering himself a promotion to the rank of Soloist. Mr. Grant has worked personally with most of the contemporary choreographers currently working around the world including David Dawson, Crystal Pite, Twyla Tharp, William Forsythe, Christopher Wheeldon, Alexei Ratmansky, Jean-Christophe Maillot, and Justin Peck. Mr. Grant retired from PNB in June of 2022 and has shifted his professional career from one of on-stage performance work to teaching, training, helping to guide the future of dance at DANCE CONSERVATORY Seattle.


Christopher E. Montoya was born in the small town of St. Johns, Arizona but grew up in South Phoenix. Mr. Montoya began his academic journey at the University of Arizona, taking time off periodically to work with professional dance companies. He started his professional career with Gus Giordano Jazz Dance Chicago as a second company member. He continued his career with David Taylor Dance Theatre, Scorpius Dance Theatre, and Center Dance Ensemble, guesting periodically with Queen City Ballet and Legacy Dance Theater. He also enjoyed dancing on pointe with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, performing as Doris Vidanya around the world, including Japan, Israel, France, Austria, Brazil, Chile, Finland, Spain, and Italy.


Moving to Seattle in 2011, Mr. Montoya completed his undergraduate degree with Cornish College of the Arts, while also performing with Seattle Dance Project and Men In Dance. While at Cornish, his goals shifted from professional work to teaching dance in higher education, which led him to receive his Master of Fine Arts from the University of Washington. He chose the University of Washington dance department because its curriculum and faculty is one of the best in the country, and he knew the program would prepare him for teaching at the collegiate level while assisting him to understand the importance of dance education. A highlight while attending the University of Washington was working with Chamber Dance Company performing works: To Have and To Hold and Moonlight by Shapiro and Smith, Petrousckha’s Room by Michel Fokine, Cloudless by Susan Marshall, and Center of My Heart by Douglas Elkins. Mr. Montoya is most proud of the class that he developed on the Romantic era of ballet with the assistance of Professor Hannah Wiley.


After graduate school, Mr. Montoya began working with Spectrum Dance Theater as the Ballet Division Head, which then turned into the School Director. For the last few years, he has been teaching open class for Dance Fremont, and was recently enjoying his role as the Managing Director of Dance Fremont. He would like to further develop his studies of ballet history and looks forward to teaching future generations of dancers at DANCE CONSERVATORY Seattle.


As mentioned in the episode, learn more about The Raymond C. Montoya Sponsor a Student Program here

Find the Dance Conservatory Seattle website here

 


EPISODE TRANSCRIPT


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:00):

Hey, I'm Vivian Phillips


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:01):

And I'm Marcie Sillman. And, this is doubleXposure.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:17):

DoubleXposure is a podcast where we plum the deepest depths and the tiniest cracks of our world to understand how culture and creativity shape our lives.


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:28):

On this episode, we meet the creators of a new Dance Conservatory in Seattle, South Park neighborhood, Vivian. Lovely to see you again.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (00:47):

As always Morrisy, it's so good to be here with you. How are you today? Um, don't tell us the truth <laugh>


MARCIE SILLMAN (00:53):

That you don't really wanna know. I've been having a war with my internet provider. Yeah. So you don't know how dependent you are on technology until it disappears. Right?


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (01:04):

Right. So, speaking of non-technological interactions, I had a great opportunity this weekend to be in person with a lot of folks. Went to the Sunset Supper at The Market on Friday evening, which was lovely. I've never been to that, but what was really interesting to me over this weekend is I ran into a number of people who applauded doubleXposure podcast. And I, I was thinking about how, you know, we would normally, if we were on screen and people were watching us, we might do viewer email. Right. <laugh> but in lieu of that, I just wanted to take a moment to say “thank you” to all of our listeners for being there on the other end of this technology. And for, for listening to us, we really, really appreciate all of you.


MARCIE SILLMAN (01:57):

It's true. When we started out on this venture, we estimated that there were probably a billion podcasts in the world. And now a year later, there's probably two billion podcasts. There's so many podcasts, Vivian, that it makes me happy that anybody finds us, but I love the accessibility of the technology. Anybody can make a podcast, anybody can listen to a podcast. And I have been thinking about that a lot when I think about South Park and access, and especially today's interview with two professional ballet dancers, Josh Grant, who just retired from Pacific Northwest Ballet and his husband, Chris Montoya, who, uh, was a ballet dancer with Les Ballets Trockadero de Monte Carlo, which is a drag ballet company. He was, I believe the head of school at Spectrum Dance Theater for a bit of time. And together, these two have opened Dance Conservatory Seattle in South Park, off Cloverdale in a revamped kinda warehouse space. And it's been interesting because really in listening back the interview was all about access.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (03:12):

Exactly. And I loved the way that they spoke about their neighborhood and this kind of automatic sense of community that is present in South Park. But the fact that they call themselves both, I think recovering from their PTSD from ballet. And so being in an environment where it's really friendly, really welcoming and warm and accessible. So folks don't have to travel outside of their own comfort zones to dance. I love that.


MARCIE SILLMAN (03:49):

That it almost, but not quite it almost entices me to take a dance class down there.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (03:55):

I think we should try it, Marcie.


MARCIE SILLMAN (03:58):

While we're contemplating, whether we wanna take a dance class, let's start in with this interview with Josh Grant and Chris Montoya. What's the vision behind the school? Who are you looking to bring in?


CHRIS MONTOYA (04:12):

I wanna bring access to people that look like me, that act like me, that were really pigeonholed in like, just weren't able to really express themselves. You know, I had this career where I had to be this and well, I'm gonna use this term loosely, hyper-masculine and I just, I really want to inspire a whole new generation again, that may not have the body type that may not have the rotation that may not have the certain kind of hair or, or there's certain kind of gender, you know, or somebody that goes in between. And I just really wanted to create a space where anyone and, and everybody could come and move their body and learn how to dance. You know,


JOSH GRANT (04:54):

Chris and I both, and which is ironic because we're, we're so opposite to begin with. You know, I'm white and six foot four and he's Hispanic and five foot two, but both of us come from a lot of, a lot of PTSD from ballet training. I mean, although I did a little bit more conventionally, neither one of us really fit the mold of what ballet dancers are supposed to be. You know, ballet is so steeped in tradition that if you don't fit into that box, and if you're not exactly what ballet thinks you're supposed to be, then you're wrong. You know, not only the, the physical and the emotional, but the mental that, that puts on you, the strain of, you know, trying to be something that you're not. And I, and I think just being able to create a space where people can come and dance and you know, we're, we're gonna teach you good technique. We're gonna teach you the rules of ballet. We're gonna give you the best possible training that we can give you. But at the same time, we're not gonna force you to be in a box that society says you have to be in.


CHRIS MONTOYA (05:52):

Not gonna force feed you either. You know what I mean? Like this is how it's gonna be, and you will listen to me and we know everything


JOSH GRANT (05:58):

And everybody's body is different. Some people have more turnout, some people have better feet. Some people are thinner, some people are heavier and who's to say that one or any of them can't dance, or can't train, or can't, you know, learn this art form that is really truly a gift to be a part of.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (06:16):

You know, there's a lot of, of flipping contemporary ballet on its head going on over the last, well, maybe 10, 15 years or so. One of the things that I'm really curious about, you're also flipping on the head location about where ballet actually takes place and is taught. So, tell us why you chose the South Park neighborhood, because that's a really nontraditional neighborhood for the kind of conservatory school that you all are running.


JOSH GRANT (06:47):

I think there's one word and that's access. It's access. A lot of people say to us that they want to come to our studio because trying to get to some of the other studios, they don't want to have to go through town or they don't have to want to go into town. And, you know, they have the luxury, they have the vehicles, they have the affordability to be able to pay for parking, pay for gas, pay for transportation. And not everybody has that. And, and unless you're in somebody's backyard who needs the access, then they're not gonna be able to even entertain the idea of even possibly going to such a place. And so, I think being in the, in the neighborhood and then being in the back door of the, of the people that we wanna, we wanna invite into our studio is most important.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (07:28):

So how much did you all know about the South Park neighborhood before you chose that? As a location?


CHRIS MONTOYA (07:34):

I knew nothing. When, you know, I moved around all over the place, but when we moved here from New York, we were living in Queen Anne and I was looking around and I was like, there is nobody that looks like me, you know? And then from there we went to Magnolia a couple of years ago, I was out walking my dogs and this person comes up to me and goes, what family do you work for? Yeah. And I was, I mean, I used a lot of words that I won't say right now.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (07:59):

Well, accessibility, I think is, uh, you know, obvious, you all want to provide access for non-traditional ballet student interested. If you will, beyond affordability and access, what are the benefits that you feel like you're getting from being located in the South Park neighborhood?


CHRIS MONTOYA (08:20):

As soon as we moved in the community, like we just started talking to people and the community has just been so friendly and supportive and so welcoming, you know, it, it felt for me, like I had come home, you know.


JOSH GRANT (08:34):

I think there's also something about the South Park neighborhood and maybe it's cultural. I'm not sure, but there is a real sense of community. I mean, I've lived in Queen Anne and Magnolia for my entire time that I've ever lived in Seattle. And I can barely tell you my neighbor's names. And we went, we went, got into South Park and within, you know, like Chris said, within a week, two weeks, three weeks, people are stopping us on the street. People are saying, hello, people are introducing themselves. How can we help? What do you need? You know, and I think that there's, you know, I was really adamant once we first moved down there to, to go and say hello to the different businesses around the neighborhood, because I, we wanted to get to know the people down there. And I mean, we were welcomed immediately. And I think that that sense of camaraderie and that sense of community while it's hard to find, it's really prevalent in South Park neighborhood, everyone seems to kind of have each other's back.


MARCIE SILLMAN (09:26):

Chris, when I came down to see the studio for the first time, six months ago or so, I was really struck by how happy you were by being in South Park. And you talked a little bit about that just now, but I, I was curious how it compares to where you did grow up, what feels the same, what's different about South Park?


CHRIS MONTOYA (09:48):

<laugh> Well, what feels the same is that there are people that look like me. There's, you know, pictures, a bunch of Poncho Villa like, there's these different cultural aspects that I love. What's very different from where I grew up is that it's safer where I grew up. It was not uncommon to hear, you know, gunshots. And it was, it wasn't even one of those things that scared you anymore. You're just like, all right, it's happening, you know, but down there, like I walk around in my shorty shorts and my high heels and, you know, <laugh>, nobody bothers me. In fact, they say hello right across from Resistencia on the North Side, there's this empty parking lot. And when we first went down there, it's this thing called a swap meet. Right. And so in Arizona swap meets, were a thing that we did every Saturday, every Saturday. And so when we like were first coming across the Duwamish Bridge, I saw a swap meet. And I was like, JOSH! And he like jumped outta his, you know. And I was like, we're going right there. I was elated.


MARCIE SILLMAN (10:52):

Cote says that there's more Mexican restaurants in South Park than anywhere in the region. Is that true?


CHRIS MONTOYA (10:57):

Well, you can't throw a stone without, you know, and I think we've tried pretty much all of them. So <laugh>,


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (11:04):

I wanna go back to something that you said Josh, around going to each one of the businesses and kind of introducing yourselves. I wanna ask about what your relationship is with the business and cultural community in South Park. And do you find that a source of referral for students?


JOSH GRANT (11:26):

You know, we went, there's a place called Oscar Bistro and the guy who owns it, the chef there is Shane Ryan, and he used to work with Ethan Stowell. And so he knows Kent and Francia from PNB. And so one of the first times that we met, we of course swap stories about, you know, pasts that we had had. And we went and had lunch there yesterday and he wasn't there right away, but he came up maybe about 20 minutes later after we got there and he pulls the car around and he's like, like waving his hands. And he's like, Josh, it's so good to see you. You know, <laugh>, Chris has a little bit better relationship with some people in the neighborhood. I have a little bit better relationship with some people in the neighborhood. As far as like referrals, it's hard to tell who's coming from where, you know, cuz you, you asked that question.


JOSH GRANT (12:08):

How did you hear about us a friend? Well, who's a friend <laugh>, you know, so I don't know how much referral we're getting from the businesses, but I, I do know that people talk in that neighborhood. People talk to each other, people get, you know, word of mouth going out. And so, I think as, as more people talk to each other and it spreads out, uh, it'll be more prevalent who they’re coming from. We tell people anytime that people are like parents are asking for a place to go get coffee or asking for a place to go get lunch. We, we tell them where to go. And we tell them which restaurants and we tell them the names of the owners of the businesses. And we always say, say that you're from Dance Conservatory Seattle, because we want them to know that we're sending them business. And at the same time, we hope that it's being reciprocated.


MARCIE SILLMAN (12:50):

Chris, you raised your finger. So,


CHRIS MONTOYA (12:51):

I know that every time I walk into Resistencia they always go, hi, how's the business going? Oh, we had some of your students over here and they were raving about you. And so I just, I, I know that one for cuz I, well, I go there a lot.


JOSH GRANT (13:04):

It's also easier for us to send business over to the business, to the other businesses than it is for them to send us because I'm telling you to go get coffee, you're having to send your child over and it's a commitment. <laugh> It’s an eight week commitment. So I think that, I think it's, it's a little bit harder for them to send us business than it is for us to send them.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (13:39):

Our music is courtesy of Big World Breaks, many thanks.


MARCIE SILLMAN (13:44):

And this year we welcome our sponsor LANGSTON, cultivating Black brilliance from their home at Seattle's Langston Hughes Performing Arts Institute in the historic Central District.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (14:02):

One of the things that I am reminded of, you know, when they're talking about their neighborhood, their connections, and I think there's actually a reference to the neighborhood that Dance Theater of Harlem is in, you know, it's the Sugar Hill neighborhood on West 152nd. And what a difference, just the presence of that place has made for the neighborhood. I think the Dance Conservatory of Seattle has the ability to do the same for South Park.


MARCIE SILLMAN (14:32):

It was really interesting because I think that the two of them have really thought long and hard before locating this kind of dance facility in a neighborhood that truly others might deem out of the way, especially if you're not from there. But the part that I really like about what they're doing is that with their meager income so far, they're contemplating what the future can be and not just what they can bring, but what the neighborhood can bring to them and how they can be a synergistic model of interaction. And I, I really think that extends beyond Dance Conservatory Seattle, to a lot of the conversations we're having in, in the City of Seattle, how can a cultural entity place itself in a neighborhood and be a force for not just people to come and dance, but for change and growth in that neighborhood.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (15:31):

And I think what all of our, uh, conversations have elevated for me is that they are steeped in relationships, in trust, and in just talking to one another. People in South Park are very attuned to talking to one another. And we may not find that on the east side of that south park bridge, you know,


MARCIE SILLMAN (15:54):

Probably not <laugh> well, this is the, the, uh, second part of the interview. And if you don't wanna hug these two people when you're done with that, I wanna know the reason why.

You two open this business, sort of in the middle of the pandemic and a year ago, you were not thinking about kids, but I happen to see because I follow you on social media, that you're going to do a summer camp for kids two camps this summer. So you're really clear about wanting everybody to be able to find a place. And I'm curious how being where you are and that idea of access impacts what kinds of classes and not just for whom, but you mentioned ballet, might you be doing other kinds of, of dance training because of where you are?


JOSH GRANT (16:46):

I've heard that people think that we're predominantly adults because we have a lot of open classes at a lot of adult classes, but that's also where Chris and I that's where we have our following for the most part is from adults. And so that's why we're offering that a lot because those are the classes that'll fill up. But we do also have kids' classes. We've got kids' classes from four years old, up to 18 years old. There is this one adult class. We called it Beginning Jazz. And it was just for people who wanted to come in and learn a little bit of Jazz and nobody was signing up and nobody was signing up. We'd have like one person. And Chris has this saying that he always says, he's like, all right, everybody let's get Moving and Groovin. And I was like, we need to change the name.


JOSH GRANT (17:23):

And we sat there and thought about it for a second. And we were just like, oh my God, it's so simple. Just call it Moving And Groovin. And Chris plays his, his Latin music. And he, he does a basic, a very, very basic jazz warm up and it kind of slowly progresses. It's got some stretching and some ab workout, and then it progresses to this moving Latin style dance. Once we changed the name to Movin and Groovin, we had like eight people sign up and now we have a legit following of people that come and take that class every single week, no matter what, and it's their hour workout. And it's, you know, I sort of, kind of think of it as like a Zumba class, but with a Latin flare and Chris teaches it and he's, you know, moving his hips and moving his shoulders and he's giving them a little salsa and then sneaking it a little, you know, jazz technique, like a jazz square or a chassé or even hell forbid a pirouette.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (18:14):

It's really interesting to hear, you know, that there was a barrier and it was a language and interpretation barrier.


JOSH GRANT (18:21):

I think like, especially adults got scared that they were like Beginning Jazz what's that we do wanna offer classes that are more culturally appropriate for the people in the neighborhood. But at the same time, Chris and I aren't necessarily qualified to teach traditional dances. And so, we'll have to hire out. And at the moment, you know, to be honest, we just, the affordability, we can't afford to hire out that many teachers right now. You know, we wanna make sure that yes, we're gonna teach a ballet class, but just because you're not white or cis-gendered or stereotypically a ballerina, what a ballerina looks like in society, doesn't mean that you can't take a ballet class and, you know, allowing, allowing people to be comfortable in their own skin, in different styles of dance.


MARCIE SILLMAN (19:03):

I know that you will grow because you're sort of embedding yourself in the community. But South Park is a community with a, the lowest income of almost any neighborhood in the city. So, affordability, not just to take a season of classes, but maybe even to take one class is an issue. So how are you trying to address that?


JOSH GRANT (19:24):

We started a program called the Raymond C. Montoya Sponsor, a student program. And Raymond C. Montoya is Chris's father who passed away in March. You know, Ray was the type of person that worked his off every single day to make sure that his family was taken care of. And he worked different jobs. He worked multiple jobs and was always, he was one of those type people that just got stuff done. He just did it himself. If it needed to get done, he was the one that did it. And so, when it came to naming this program, of course, it was obvious to me that we needed to name it after Ray, not only to honor him, but also, you know, pay homage to him, pay respect to him and to Chris as well. So, we named it, the Raymond C. Montoya Sponsor a Student Program, and it's a program that people can donate to and that money will go to tuition costs. It'll go to dance clothes. That fund will be, I will say predominantly, but I think, I mean, all <laugh> financial based, not necessarily merit based, but financial based, basically people will contact us. They will say, hey, this is our situation. We'd love to have our child come and take class, but the affordability is, is not there. Affordability, I think is the biggest barrier.


MARCIE SILLMAN (20:36):

Chris I'm, I'm just sort of curious, you grew up in a, a part of Phoenix that maybe you wouldn't have had access to the kind of dance training you didn't.


CHRIS MONTOYA (20:45):

I didn't, my cousin got me into this group that was part of a magnet program out of the south side. And, um, you know, a teacher came, a choreographer, came, saw me dance was like, hey, come to this studio. And so I left and, um, it was run by a, uh, a Korean man and there was all sorts of colors up in that studio. So it was awesome, but you know, we couldn't afford it. So he gave me a scholarship, but you know, we had to drive 30 minutes just to get there. And then when I started ballet, I had to get on a scholarship because there was like, no way we could afford ballet, you know? And then again, we had to drive and thankfully, you know, both of my parents worked hard, they had jobs. So, I mean, I never went without anything, but there were certain things that I noticed that were very different than the people around me.


MARCIE SILLMAN (21:37):

So the, the Raymond C. Montoya Scholarship maybe could help somebody like you.


CHRIS MONTOYA (21:43):

Exactly.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (21:44):

You know, one of the things that's been really enlightening for me personally, having known about the South Park neighborhood, being from this area, and it's really been kind of a pass through neighborhood for me, admittedly, you know, coming to, or from some service, if you will, in the area, but I've learned so much talking with the folks that we've had an opportunity to talk, talk with. And I'm curious if you all would share what's one of the biggest surprises or biggest takeaways that you all have had so far learning about the South Park neighborhood and now being a part of that community.


JOSH GRANT (22:21):

I have to say that I know for Chris, moving to Seattle was very difficult. And you know, when he was talking about which family do you work for and being in Magnolia and being in Queen Anne and not feeling a sense of community of people that look like him. And I have to kind of reiterate what Marcie said too. When we drove through South Park for the first time, Chris's eyes were like huge. And he got such a big smile on his face and he was like, I see my people here. And so I have to say that, I think that for me, that warms my heart, cuz my husband finally has a community where he, he has people that are like-minded that have had the same experiences as him possibly. And the same cultural experiences.


CHRIS MONTOYA (23:03):

That’s really deep, honey. I was gonna say the food.

<laughs>


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (23:15):

What is one of the, one of the first things that you tell your friends about the South Park neighborhood say before now? And now what would you say about it before you got there? And what do you tell your friends about it now?


JOSH GRANT (23:27):

I would say don't judge a book by its cover. I think that a lot of people have that mentality that South Park is a pass through and especially with the West Seattle bridge closing, which is nice for us cuz we have a lot of drive by traffic. But with the West Seattle bridge closure, a lot of people are just driving through the neighborhood. I think partly in a way, some people are starting to notice that there are businesses in the area. There are restaurants, there are communities, there are activities that are happening that I don't think necessarily people realize. I, I don't say don't judge a book by its cover, but that's the first word that comes to mind, come down for the swap meets, you know, check out South Park on Facebook, you know, or Insta-famous or wherever you get your information, <laugh> come on down and see what's happening and you know, try something new.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (24:13):

Do you see demographic changes? I mean, Seattle is obviously becoming or has been very white and seems to be becoming less diverse Seattle proper. And there's a lot of talk about how neighborhoods change due to gentrification and development. Do you see that happening in South Park and how does that impact you?


CHRIS MONTOYA (24:37):

Well, you know, you can see it just driving down Cloverdale to get to our studio. You see these beautiful quaint homes and then right next to it is this massive town home that, you know, my husband stands in and his arms touch the walls and then there's cute houses. And then there's another one and then they're selling this. And so it's really upsetting because these people, these families have probably lived in these houses for years or maybe not, you know, but you know, and let's say someone goes to salad because they can't afford the taxes or they can't do this. But now that they're building all of these new things in, everything's just going up and up and up and maybe you're on a fixed income, maybe you're not, but like it's really unnerving as somebody that, you know, grew up a bit poor.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (25:22):

I asked that question because I'm, I'm curious about how you all see your role in helping to sustain the culture. That's so prevalent in South Park that is so attractive to you and what you do. And with the changes that are coming down the pike, where do you see yourself involved in maintaining the overall culture and intimacy, if you will, of that, that neighborhood and community.


JOSH GRANT (25:49):

I hearken back immediately to Dance Theater of Harlem and what Dance Theater of Harlem did for the neighborhood of, of Harlem in New York City. Creating an institution of dance that wasn't anywhere near Lincoln Center wasn't anywhere near the white communities. It was in an area that was heavily Hispanic, heavily black and brown and lower income. And that was 60 years ago. And they're still thriving today. <laugh> I think that, you know, between mine and Chris's experiences and our cultures and our histories, I think that we can fill that void. That can be a dance institution and we don't have to be just ballet. We didn't wanna be Seattle Ballet Studio or Seattle Ballet School because we didn't want to be just ballet. We wanted to be dance. Yes, ballet is our background. Ballet is our spine, but we, we wanna be a dance institution for the community. You know, making sure that we have people that come from different backgrounds, whether that's race, whether it's ethnicity, whether it's gender, whether it's sexual orientation, you know, it's making sure that this is a free and open, safe space that you can be your true, authentic self at our studio.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (26:56):

In some neighborhoods, the arrival of yoga studios and dance studios is an indicator of change. And so, you know, it can be one of those things that is emotionally stressful for people who have been in those communities for a long time.


JOSH GRANT (27:12):

I don't wanna be the white middle class person that comes into the neighborhood and start saying, well, this is how we do it. So if you wanna do it this way, then you have to come here. It didn't work for me. Why am I thinking it would work for anybody else? You know, respecting the community and respecting the culture and making sure that people know that.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (27:29):

Josh Grant and Chris Montoya, thank you both so much for taking time from this new enterprise that you're building to talk to Vivian and me, really appreciate your insights and your humor today.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (27:42):

You all take good care.


MARCIE SILLMAN (27:45):

Vivian, I have really loved our visits with folks from south park Coté Soerens. We started out with Jessica Peña-Manalo, the music teacher from Concord elementary and now Josh Grant and Chris Montoya who run Dance Conservatory Seattle from the idea of tasting Mexican food and many of the establishments to maybe going to a flea market. I'm just enamored with the idea of the neighborhood.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (28:14):

Also, I'm thinking again about some of the conversations that I had over the weekend with some of our listeners. And one of the things that came up was how much folks enjoy hearing from people that we get to talk to that you don't get to hear from very often in any other form. So I, I share in your enthusiasm and joy from having these conversations with folks in South Park, I wanna be insta-famous though. <laugh> I loved Chris's, uh, interpretation of, you know, the difference between actually having kind of those real solid relationships and being Insta-famous. I just learned so much and get so much from these conversations and I I'm opened and I hope that's what's happening for, for our listeners.


MARCIE SILLMAN (29:03):

As well opened indeed, after our run at South Park, we go back to central Seattle to the waterfront. Those are coming up in October, but just thinking about the deep dives that we are getting to do in these neighborhoods and, and thinking about the history, the past, the present and the futures of our city and the role that cultural entities, whether they're huge, like Waterfront Park in downtown Seattle, or they're home grown like South Park Hall, these are all things that just I'm really, really energized by these conversations.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (29:42):

I agree. And I think for both of us being, you know, longtime residents of the city, some more long than others, <laugh> <laugh> me, but having, having the experiences that we've both had of living in these spaces and really very interesting ways, very particular ways, but then having the opportunity to go back and have these deep dives. How many times have we been to the waterfront, hundreds? Right? How many times have we've been in the central area? Well, we've both lived there. The same experiences that we've had with South Park have not had the, given us the opportunity to sit in it in many ways. So it's enjoyable, in Seattle Center or Seattle, our, our living room in Seattle. So it's a lot to take in, but it is something that really broadens our perspective and makes me very, very grateful.


MARCIE SILLMAN (30:40):

I echo that. Thanks everyone for listening and stay with us. Tell a friend.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (30:45):

We'll hear from you and we'll see you next time or wait, we'll see you next time.

<laugh>


MARCIE SILLMAN (31:00):

DoubleXposure executive producers are me, Marcie Sillman.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (31:03):

And me Vivian Phillips. We get production support from Hilary Northcraft, Randy Engstrom, and Calandra Childers.


MARCIE SILLMAN (31:11):

Support for doubleXposure comes from Pyramid Communications.


VIVIAN PHILLIPS (31:15):

And we're especially proud to support Crosscut Media’s Black Arts Legacies project, highlighting the role of Black artists and arts organizations throughout our cultural landscape.


MARCIE SILLMAN (31:27):

If you like what you're hearing on this episode of doubleXposure, be sure to follow us on your favorite podcast app and check out our website, doublexposurepod.com



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