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Flash Dispatch, 10-5: Spectacle at City Hall
S.F. Dancers Unite but Fail to Ignite

By Christine Chen
Copyright 2000 Christine Chen

SAN FRANCISCO -- At 10 a.m. yesterday, a small crowd began to gather around the steps of City Hall. The faces were mostly familiar -- recognizable as members of the S.F. dance community, with the few that were not familiar carrying little notebooks and tape recorders. Some wore wigs and boas, others, lingerie and masks. There were people in veils, formal wear, show costumes, suits, jeans and sweats. Protest signs were erected, banners unfurled, flyers handed out, and sound systems checked.

Taiko artists began drumming and filled the air with a steady, infectious, energetic pulse. Contact duets emerged among members of the crowd; ballet dancers, fully costumed in tutus and skirts, ritualistically went through a barre warm-up under a sign that read, "No Space to Dance." Stilt-walkers and jugglers roamed the sidewalk while an aerialist climbed, danced and maneuvered up and down a vertical pole (actually a light boom). Across the street at the far end of the plaza, a group of people covered from head to toe in white clothing and veils started a snail's pace processional journey towards the building. On the steps, two women in long black dresses rooted their feet to the ground and desperately gesticulated -- conjuring images of pain and suffering. Curious onlookers paused at the spectacle long enough to be bombarded with political literature. Then, Dance Brigade's Krissy Keefer stepped to the mic and began the rally.

The rally, organized by the Artists Eviction Defense Coalition (AEDC) and charismatically led by Keefer, preceded AEDC's meeting with the finance committee of the city's board of supervisors in which it proposed specific solutions for the arts crisis in SF. The main thrust of the rally: Vote Yes on L (a local ballot proposition written by the artists outlining solutions for the space crisis) and No on K (a proposition written by Mayor Willie Brown addressing the same issues but leaving loopholes for businesses).

In my Flash Review 2, 9-17: Celebrating the Margins, I reviewed "Artists in Exile," a documentary about the history of modern dance in the Bay Area. The film celebrated Bay Area artists, but it also pointed to the grim realities facing this arts community in the wake of the flourishing economy, escalating rent prices, and disheartening evictions of SF dance meccas. Inspired by the film, I went to the rally at City Hall to see, first hand, the dance community in action -- uniting and performing to bring awareness to the economic emergency in the arts.

I appreciated the variety of the performances at the rally (Flamenco, dance-theater, sketch comedy, poetry readings, physical movement, minimalist movement, chanting, rants, installations, guitar sing-a-longs), the careful orchestration of all these elements (Dance Brigade reached a climax with its Salt n' Pepa, in-your-face style energy just as the aforementioned processional group in white arrived at the street and shut down traffic), and the seamless melding of the dance work with the political issues. I was, however, generally disappointed that the rally did not involve a more diverse crowd (i.e. non-dancers) and that the energy of the crowd did not reach a very high level overall.

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