In The Neighborhood

by Amelia (’13)

Dance Mission

If you have ever been to the mission district of San Francisco, you know you will never run out of things to do. Among the taquerias, panaderias, bookstores, cafes, yoga studios and thrift stores is a dance studio very close to my heart, a space tucked between a Chinese restaurant and a Turkish café, Dance Mission. My time at Dance Mission has not only informed my modern/contemporary technique, but also educated me on contemporary artistic feminism and issues that plague women and minorities around the world. I have danced for oil drilling and deforestation in South America, victims of domestic abuse and violence and women’s reproductive rights. Not many dancers in the dance department at SOTA can say that. But now if modern isn’t your thing, that’s fine, you could try out hip hop, salsa, bellydance, Afro-Cuban, or taiko drumming: I certainly have. What is utterly lacking in Dance Mission is its sense of elitism. Dance is often made out to be an expensive, individualized art for the few who can dedicate their lives to it. Dance Mission has never and will never operate like that. The Grrrl Brigade youth program (not unlike Riot Grrl) seeks to empower girls and women in their communities by allowing them to realize their potential through dance. Dance Mission is a matriarchy, made up almost entirely of queer feminist artists lending their abilities to social awareness through dance, spoken word, sign language and taiko drumming. These women are incredible. They are all indisputably talented, ridiculously compassionate and unabashed about standing up for what they believe in.

I am coming up on my final performance as a principal dancer with Grrrl Brigade and my first incorporating my own writing. I suppose this warrants some self-actualization in how, over the years, my dance and my writing are equal players in my identity. To remember: writers are not lethargic and dance is not void of poetry. I am terrified of leaving a community that has been such a support system and so attentive to my personal strengths and weaknesses. What if a “conventional” dance studio doesn’t suit me? What if my next instructors don’t want to have drinks with my mother and ask me about my poems? I will leave that up to time. But if you ever find yourself at 24th and Mission with an hour to kill and $11, I urge you to discover something you will be inexplicably unable to forget.