Redfined, Page 3
of a Dance Company
I realized that I had very talented, fresh students who hadnt
really been tainted by years and years of expectations about art,
says Way. So in 1971 she and a group of 14 studentsdancers,
musicians, writers, a painter, and a photographerspent the
summer camped out on Marthas Vineyard, creating work, debating,
dancing, and forging the beginnings of the Oberlin Dance Collective.
Why a collective? I had been part of the feminist movement
in New York, and the whole idea of different structures of leadership
was very important to me, Way says. How can you have
a strong organization that gives room for everybody to grow and
develop? The idea that we didnt need to outgrow our passion
about the form just because our bodies changed was enticing, and,
of course, connected with feminism, since it was so related toare
women over with when theyre not pretty and young
ODC continued dancing at Oberlin, toured in the summers, and in
1976 piled into a yellow school bus headed for San Francisco. Its
members quickly found and renovated a rehearsal space, started a
school, sponsored a performing-arts series of outside artists, and
edited a nationally distributed magazine called New Performance.
However, as former ODC dancer Jeff Friedman recalls in his essay,
Sprung Floor: A History of the Oberlin Dance Collectives
Performance Gallery, their landlord noted the buildings
valuable enhancements and evicted them in 1979, raising the rent
dramatically. ODC responded by buying their own building, a former
hardware store in San Franciscos Mission District, a neighborhood
of blue-collar workers and warehouses later gentrified in the 1990s.
We had some luck getting the mortgage, Way laughs. You
know, a bunch of girls called The Collective going in
for a mortgagewe didnt look like a very tight package.
The group poured into their company the same energy and versatility
that went into their dances. For months, members and friends toiled
on plumbing, wiring, and other building components. Running behind
schedule, collective members worked in 24-hour shifts for the final
weeks to install the dance floor in time for the opening event of
their performing-arts series in January 1980.
You know what I think is the key? asks Way. I
never felt entitled. You have to enlist peoplenot demand.
That is where I separated from a lot of my peers back then. While
they were making demands, we were building a dance floor.
As it turned out, buying the building was both timely and visionary.
The economic boom and San Franciscos dot-com economy propelled
the Bay Areas real estate market to stratospheric heights
in the late 1990s. Rents for commercial space quadrupled, and at
least seven San Francisco arts organizations lost their spaces,
according to The San Francisco Chronicle, with many more at risk.
People say, Oh, it was so smart to buy a building,
Way says. But if youre evicted, it doesnt feel
smart to not want to get evicted again. It seems like common sense.
You have to be risky to make something happen. On the other hand,
if there isnt a solid core of realism inside the risk, its
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of Dance Redefined