Bay Area Community Colleges: Great Teaching, Great Value

By Gail Barton


In the nine Bay Area counties, there are at least 17 colleges (the difficulty in counting comes from the fact that some have branches, while others have campuses and other naming possibilities). All serve the entire spectrum of student: from the recent high school graduate to the recently retired, as well as those retraining or maintaining skills. Unfortunately, we only hear about the community colleges in the news when there are problems. Even with statewide financial difficulties, the cost of one unit of college credit is still only $48 per semester (prorated when the college is on the quarter system). Many colleges offer day, evening and weekend classes, as well as summer sessions. Most colleges offer dance classes at beginning through intermediate or advanced levels.

As far back as 1969, my Afro-Haitian teacher at City College, San Francisco, Zack Thompson, said “today, everyone does everything.” And the colleges have been trying to meet those needs ever since. Now more than ever, the versatile dancer needs to be competent in several styles with some familiarity in others. This article is just to remind beginning, returning and continuing students of excellent opportunities to expand their dance palate at a local college.

While most schools offer ballet, hip hop, jazz and modern dance classes, the College of Marin  specifically offers training in the Limon technique. At least four schools have tap (SF, San Mateo, San Jose and Laney in Oakland). Three offer African, or African-Haitian (Marin, SF and Laney).

While three schools offer a general Folk or World dance class (SF, Santa Rosa and Foothill in Los Altos), several others have courses in specific forms: San Jose – Mexican; Contra Costa – Egyptian Belly; and Skyline in San Bruno – Chinese. Many schools offer lecture classes such as Dance History, Appreciation or Rhythmic Analysis. Many schools provide instruction in conditioning, dance aerobics, yoga and even Feldenkrais at SF. Most schools offer some type of social or ballroom dance, many with specialty classes, such as Salsa/Latin, Swing/Lindy, Waltz and Argentine Tango.

For the more advanced dancer seeking additional performing opportunities, most colleges provide a production-type course under various titles, including: Repertory, Choreography, Composition, Musical Production, Dance Company, Ensemble, Workshop or Rehearsal. Some schools offer certificates or majors, with course work transferable to four-year universities. When searching online, dance courses may be found listed separately or with other Physical Education or Performing Arts classes. Enjoy!

Gail Barton retired recently from City College of San Francisco, where she taught dance and yoga for over 30 years.