Trio teams up to take over Dance department

Andrea Rooney

Some programs might suffer after the retirement of a 35-year key faculty member and program director, but the City College Dance department has taken Kay Fulton’s retirement as an opportunity to bring in new talent and expand its wings.

Pamela Lappen and Matthew Nelson, both with extensive and very different dance backgrounds, have joined program director Jennifer Seigle to provide dance students with varying levels of classes in modern, jazz, ballet, and choreography.

All three instructors will serve as professional choreographers for the fall dance concert.

Lappen joined the Dance department as a part-time faculty member this past summer and is enjoying her role as a teacher and choreographer.

“I love teaching here. I love the students. I think they’re fantastic,” Lappen said.

As a toddler, Lappen’s mother repeatedly caught her crawling up on the kitchen table to use it as a stage. In an attempt to save her table, her mother enrolled the then 3-year-old in dance classes and unintentionally ignited her daughter’s lifelong passion for dance. Lappen can now add almost 50 years of dancing and 30 years of teaching to her impressive resume.

“If I have to keep working ’til the day I die, that means I get to dance until I die,” Lappen said of her love for teaching.

Since earning her master’s in dance and education from UCLA, Lappen has been teaching dance in prestigious schools and programs all over the area. Her professional career began when the artistic director of
Harkness Ballet invited her to New York after watching her dance during her senior year at the University of Wisconsin. After graduating with a bachelor’s in Dance and Theater Performance, Lappen went on to dance professionally for about 15 years, and even found time to tour with a show band for a year.

“I’m doing something that I truly love, and I love sharing that with people,” she said.

Lappen is currently teaching two jazz classes and a stretching and relaxation course in addition to leading rehearsals for the piece she is choreographing for the concert.

Matthew Nelson, another professional dance veteran will also bring new perspectives to the program.

After falling in love with dance and body movement as an undergraduate at Pomona College, Nelson moved to Philadelphia where he continued to dance and study body awareness and massage therapy. After five years of dancing, Nelson was hired by the Santa Barbara Dance Theatre where he danced for three years before attending the University of Utah to get his Master’s in Modern Dance.

Nelson has returned to Santa Barbara Dance Theatre and joined the City College Dance Department this fall as a part-time modern instructor and contributing choreographer for the dance concert.

The Dance Department’s budget doesn’t include the performance component, and the fundraising efforts of students and faculty members are crucial for the concert’s success. The Dance Department is having a fundraiser at Chili’s restaurant in Goleta on Oct. 27. A portion of all sales that day will go to the Dance Department. The concert will take place at 8 p.m. Nov. 22 at the Lobero Theatre in downtown Santa Barbara. All students, employees, and community members are invited to attend.