Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya is the founder and artistic director of Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre. (Photos by Terence Duffy)

Young Professionals: Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya

Meet the emerging leaders who envision a bright future for the Capital Region

Back Article Jun 4, 2024 By Rachel Leibrock

Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya

Founder and Artistic Director, Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre

This story is part of our June 2024 issue. To subscribe, click here.

Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya discovered his love for the performing arts in middle school; first, musical theater; then vocals and dance. Being on stage, he realized, gave him a different way to communicate.

“When you’re young, you don’t always have the words to express what you’re feeling,” says Gutierrez-Montoya, 38, founder and artistic director at the Sacramento Contemporary Dance Theatre. “But through movement and dance, you can create a dialogue that is expressive.”

After high school, the Roseville native studied dance at the University of Las Vegas. From there, he took what seemed like the next, natural step and went to New York to pursue Broadway. In 2010, however, Gutierrez-Montoya says he felt a calling to return to Sacramento.

“I thought New York was the direction that I wanted to go, but the further I went with my arts passion, I felt like being a creator was more important,” he says. “My family was here; I wanted to be a contributor and give back in that way.”

By 2015 he’d founded SCDT, whose mission is to translate the work of local nonprofits into art, be it on stage or via film and visual art. Its first production was a collaboration with the UC Davis Comprehensive Cancer Center that dramatized a narrative about a person’s cancer diagnosis journey. The show raised approximately $25,000, Gutierrez-Montoya says. “We were able to show up and give our art to a cause,” he says. He adds that in the years since, SCDT has raised millions of dollars in support of Sacramento nonprofits. 

Jacob Gutierrez-Montoya enjoys an ice coffee at the Thursday Bodega Days farmers market in Cesar Chavez Park.

It’s critical, he adds, that SCDT, which is headquartered at The Sofia, exists at the intersection of art and philanthropy. Other collaborations have included productions for Habitat for Humanity and Shriner’s Hospital for Children, Sacramento.

“We wanted to make ourselves an accessible philanthropic arts entertainment company,” Gutierrez-Montoya says. “We’ve also evolved into becoming not just a company that gives back to the community, but we’re on our own artistic journey as well.”

His favorite partnership is one that has yet to premiere: an upcoming dance documentary for PBS that examines mental health in the food and restaurant industry. Produced in partnership with local restaurateurs Bobbin and Patrick Mulvaney, “Behind the Apron” includes interviews with local chefs and restaurant owners, including chocolatier Ginger Elizabeth as well as Canon owners Clay Nutting and chef Brad Cecchi. The film, which has taken less than two years to complete, is part of Mulvaney’s “I Got Your Back” campaign to destigmatize mental health in the restaurant industry. (A live dance preview of the documentary was held at The Sofia in February.) 

“When you’re young, you don’t always have the words to express what you’re feeling. But through movement and dance, you can create a dialogue that is expressive.”

Gutierrez-Montoya holds many titles at SCDT. In addition to being the company’s founder and artistic director, he is also its development director, community partnership director and resident choreographer. He also owns his own dance school, the Folsom-based Hawkins Contemporary Jazz Company, and choreographs productions for Capital Stage and Music Circus.

He is also the director of development and community partnerships at The Sofia, home of B Street Theatre, and is co-chair of the Sofia Soirée on an annual basis. Additionally, he holds the position of artistic director for the Habitat for Humanity Gala and is co-owner of Hawkins School of Performing Arts.

All those roles may seem like a lot, says Gutierrez-Montoya, who in his spare time enjoys yoga and spending time with his husband, Kaiser Permanente postdoctoral resident Elio Gutierrez-Montoya, and their two dogs, Tiburon, a blue nose pit bull, and Juliet, a black Labrador. Together, he says, they work to create an artistic synergy.

“I’m blessed to have found the thing that makes me fully tick,” he says.

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