Dancers’ Group: Celebrating 30 Years

By In Dance

September 1, 2012, PUBLISHED BY IN DANCE

30 THOUGHTS FOR 30 YEARS

1.    QUIETLY HIDDEN
2.    SECRET HALLS
3.    VIBRANT SCRAMBLES
4.    WINDOWS LIT
5.    PRACTICE STEPS REPEAT
6.    SECLUDED RISK
7.    WAYNE HAZZARD AND RAPTURE
8.    A PLACE TO TRY/UNFOLD
9.    JUST DO
10.    OPENINGS
11.    ED MOCK IN THE WALLS
12.    CLOSURES
13.    TIME OUT/ EMBRACE
14.    RADIANT LIGHT
15.    VERNON FUQUAY FOR EVERYONE
16.    SPINE FOREVER STURDY
17.    SURPRISES NO DOUBT!
18.    FLY AWAY
19.    COLLAPSE AND BUILD
20.    CONTRACT AND RELEASE
21.    STOP AND SHIFT
22.    DIVE HEADLONG
23.    TIMELESS REACH
24.    AARON OSBORNE AND FLOW
25.    ASSEMBLAGE OF CARE
26.    PASSION FOR THE EDGES
27.    JOE GOODE IN THE ROOMS/CORNERS
28.    INSISTENCE ON BETTER
29.    SUPPORT TIME AWAY
30.    FOREVER! MORE

–Margaret Jenkins, Artistic Director Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

Comraderie/Community
In the mid-80’s Footwork [the studio operated by Dancers’ Group] and Vernon Fuquay were a symbol for home and a community space for not only locals but also for artists coming through town who would perform and share their visions, and maybe end up staying.

With those distinctive memorable windows that created an architectural showpiece, it was the most intimate audience/performer space one could wish for. A place that embraced and made everyone embrace one another—perhaps it was the times.

Starting my dance career at age 40 (unheard of in those years), I wondered if I would be a loner, but I met the legendary Ed Mock in a little café on 22nd Street and Mission, and we hit it off talking about Margaret H’Doubler and each sharing our own “Zippity Doo Dah” dance/song (my first dance) in the middle of the café floor. Footwork was also home for Ed where he taught, rehearsed his group, and performed. We collaborated, shared performances, and even improvised with the Kronos Quartet at Forest Meadows Amphitheatre in Marin where we stood on stage staring at the audience, holding hands, wondering what we were going to do, when suddenly Ed gave me a yank and I pulled away in response and the improvisation began and the rest was history. That is just one memory of the kind of performer/teacher he was— fearless and trusting in the moment, which also helped to build the community at Footwork. Next, my company performed at the Laney College Dance Series, with Ed as guest artist, and there I met Jose Maria Francos who with his lighting designs and artistic advisement became a friend forever.  On November 25, 1985, Ed and I performed in Footwork’s fundraiser for the Mexican earthquake where I also met a few more “older dancers” (we weren’t elders yet), Lucas Hoving and Remy Charlip who were premiering “Growing Up in Public”. Both would join me as guests in my future concerts, and with Remy until 2001.  Footwork played an integral part in the development of June Watanabe in Company.

And Wayne Hazzard was born and raised there and he has through all its reincarnations, been the guiding light and major player – I remember Wayne through the demise of the Dance Coalition and birth of Dancers’ Group.

Wayne and community are synonymous with San Francisco dance just as Footwork and Vernon Fuquay.
–June Watanabe, Grandmother, Artistic Director June Watanabe in Company, Professor Emerita Dance Mills College

Oh, to dance everyday at Footwork

Footwork/Dancers’ Group had the finest modern dance floor I had ever worked on—wood wood wood, and just enough traction to allow a dancer to run in any direction. And you could slide without third-degree burns all over your body.

Footwork is where I first studied with Aaron Osborne, one of the most transcendent modern dancers of our time. Not only a remarkable teacher, but also a generous and unpretentious artist. His references changed the trajectory of my career. I can still see him dancing in my mind.

During a very precious time in the 1980s, I taught modern dance there—sandwiched in between Lucas Hoving’s modern class and Ed Mock’s jazz class. Sometimes I would spend the entire day watching and/or dancing—it was an incredible feast of 20th Century moving art. I especially remember one day when I was leaning against the doorjamb next to Ed while my class danced, and he said to me, “you know, Joan, one day you’ll realize that you are really a jazz dancer.”  I think I understand now that everyone can be a jazz dancer when they are standing next to Ed Mock.

And Footwork was committed to including live accompaniment. I still talk about my favorite musicians—Pope Flynne, John Toenjes and Anna Karney. They brought me to tears in every class, and spoiled me for other musicians; it was just sooooo good.

That is where I worked with some of the dancers I respect the most, like Jane Schnorrenberg, Ann DiFruscia, Laura Elaine Ellis and Michael Armstrong, and where we presented low-tech performances in that wonderful studio-theater—New & Nearly New Dances and All Dance/No Tech. The set-up that Footwork managed for on-the-spot performances is still unequaled, I think. The audience was raked, the drapes transformed the space into a black box, the tech booth was like a cloud-based submarine, and everything worked! A really fruitful time for many emerging choreographers.  And then of course, there was one afternoon when we had a matinee performance scheduled without realizing that Carnival was going to be marching down Mission Street right under the Footwork windows at the same exact time . . . love SF!
–Joan Lazarus, Executive Director, DanceArt, Inc.


In Dance is a monthly publication of Dancers' Group.

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