The magazine of UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center

Spring/Summer 2016

Dancers on stage during 'Reslilience' performance

Resilience resounds

Dancers raise awareness and funds for cancer center

Learn to bend, and you’ll be less likely to break. Enter the flow, and you may just float through and survive the most treacherous waters.

That’s the mindset behind resilience — the notion that flexibility yields strength and endurance, even in the face of extreme adversity.

Local choreographer Jacob Montoya is in awe of the power of resilience, having watched his grandmother and uncle tap deeply into the human resource as they both grappled with cancer. Last year Montoya, who is nationally recognized for his choreography, created a dance production titled “Resilience” to honor the strength of cancer patients and their caregivers. The performance generated $12,000 for UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center programs.

Montoya returns this fall with an encore performance of “Resilience,” and hopes it will again speak to those who live and work with cancer, helping them through their journeys.

“I am very artistically fulfilled in my life, but this gives me a way of giving back,” Montoya says. “I get to, in a way, assist (cancer patients and caregivers) with their mission.”

Montoya is artistic director of Hawkins Contemporary Dance Company in Folsom. Using Kickstarter, a funding platform for creative projects, he and friends last year launched a separate philanthropic company, the Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre (SCDT) with his partner, UC Davis Health System employee Elio Gutierrez. The aim of the dance company is to use dance performances both as a medium to convey uplifting themes, as well as to raise funds for worthy causes.

“We are so grateful to Jacob, Elio and the Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre for creating an artistic way to inspire patients, families and health care providers as we collectively battle cancer and motivate others to support cancer research at UC Davis,” says Jonathan Evans, cancer center director of development.

Last year’s “Resilience” was a 16-act performance that featured 36 dancers and local singer Sara Logan. The performance featured hospital procedures, waiting rooms and dancers wearing hospital gowns that they later shed. Montoya said this year’s performance will likely be somewhat different, but the focus on the themes of strength and peace will remain.

“My relationship with the second show is going to be different,” he says. “I want to ultimately grow with the piece, layer it emotionally.”

Montoya says the dance follows “the journey of someone who has been diagnosed with cancer and the things people have to deal with.” He has been talking with cancer survivors as he develops the second iteration of “Resilience.”

This year, Montoya is hoping that more physicians, nurses and other medical staff see the show. He remembers a young woman in medical school who told him the performance opened her eyes, allowing her to view her cancer patients with greater compassion, particularly a young mother she was treating.

“It provides an interesting space for doctors and nurses to experience and maybe release all of that stuff they’ve got pent up,” he says.

For more information about SCDT visit