The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

The news site of Santa Barbara City College.

The Channels

Non-traditional student dances down a unique path to SBCC

Nora Abou-Dabous

While most 14-year-old girls were daydreaming about the Jonas Brothers and watching Hannah Montana, Carisa Carroll was beginning her first semester at City College.

Carroll, a City College dancer, signed up for the Dual Enrollment Program on campus which allowed her to complete her home school requirements at the age of 14.

Currently, the 22-year-old wife, sister of eight, and avid sewer is in City College’s dance program, where she recently performed in the annual spring dance concert.

“I have always thought Carisa was a talented and beautiful dancer and artist,” said Tracy Kofford, City College’s dance professor. “She is just beautiful to watch.”

Story continues below advertisement

The dancer was born in Los Angeles but moved to Reno, Nevada, for a few years with her family. They were able to return to California where her family built a house up in the foothills off the 154.

Carroll has one biological brother and seven adopted siblings from foster care. She got married in February 2012 and currently lives with her husband.

Before Carroll appeared on City College’s President’s Honor Roll and one of Phi Theta Kappa’s honor students, she emerged as an eager dance student.

Carroll began her dancing career at the age of seven after watching her cousin dance at the Montecito School of Ballet. Carroll decided to join the school and eventually graduated from the program.

After graduating, Carroll became a guest dancer, where she was partnered with Tracy Kofford, another guest artist and current dance instructor.

From partner to teacher, Kofford said watching Carroll grow has been a joyful experience.

“To see her come into her own is always a thrill for any teacher,” said Kofford. “She is going to go as far as she wants in this field because she is determined, and as a teacher, that makes working with her a joy.”

While dancing for the Montecito School of Ballet, Carroll performed on notable stages in Santa Barbara, such as the Lobero and Marjorie Luke theatres. She was strictly performing ballet, but that would soon change.

“I was first exposed to modern and jazz when I was 15 and went to a two week summer intensive,” Carroll said.

The intensive was similar to a day job, as Ballet Santa Barbara had Carroll dancing from nine to five. At the end of the two-week intensive, Carroll and fellow dancers had to perform in a show in order to demonstrate what they had learned.

After the intensive, Carroll became unsure of her future with dance and took time away from the stage to figure it out.

“I was just sort of like, ‘I don’t know if I should do this anymore,’” said Carroll. “I wanted to pursue having more friends and being more involved in my church which had youth group.”

Carroll soon realized that there was something missing in her life as she began to miss dance and the emotions that came with it.

“When you dance it’s like everything else just goes away,” said Carroll. “You can just sort of focus and think about the movement and kind of get lost in the music.”

Carroll regained that focus and went to another summer intensive at State Street Ballet in 2012. She danced everyday from nine to five for a month.

After completing the intensive, Carroll was offered an apprenticeship, where she was a “trainee” for the company. The company was short staffed and, to Carroll’s surprise, became an understudy.

“I performed way more than I ever thought I would,” Carroll said. “I was put in a lot of parts; I danced in Nutcracker as well.”

When Carroll is out of the lights and off of the stage, she enjoys weaving together fabrics with her grandmother’s handed-down sewing machine.

“I actually make lingerie,” said Carroll. “I mostly give it to friends for wedding gifts and stuff.”

Carroll said if her part time sewing took off, it would be great, but is focusing on her dance career.

As she nears her Associates Degree in Liberal Arts, Carroll plans to attend UCSB in the spring of 2015.

Kofford has faith in Carroll as she continues to advance her dancing ability.

“I trust her and know that she is going to go far in this career,” Kofford said.


More to Discover