Rhythm & Motion dance studios used call their home here in San Francisco. I did work exchange here on and off, checking students into classes. I got my inspiration for starting Root Magazine from the mess of flyers all over the building, each colorful xerox competing with the next for attention. I bitched and moaned with the rest of the woman at the lack of changing rooms and old toilets. I got completely creeped out when venturing into the basement for some chairs and spotted the old dusty bar that seemed to be evidence of speakeasy days.
Before the studio moved into their new location in conjunction with the ODC Dance Theatre, this was a place many people considered home. The main dance studio, with its wooden vaulted ceiling and old stage had the space for upwards of 20 live musicians playing for a huge dance class. It had leftover room for those who snuck in as an impromtu audience. You can see the windows of the main studio ingulfed in flame in the picture above. Those windows would steam up like crazy and we'd crack them open breathing the cool air outside unless our teachers wanted them shut to keep extra warm!
The classes go on somewhere else in the city, but this building was a special place and it will be missed.
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Grass Dancing is a Native American dance form requiring rhythm and strength while wearing elaborate hand made regalia.
Powwows.com goes into detail on the origins and meanings of Grass Dancing:
Originally done as a warrior society dance, it has evolved over the
years. It has further evolved into a highly-competitive form of
Grass Dancing always stands out by virtue of two things: his
dancing style and his outfit. His dancing has been described often by
these words:” gutsy, swinging, slick, old-time,” etc. His outfit stands
out by virtue of the almost complete absence of feathers, for aside
from the roach feather, there are no bustles of any kind to be seen.
The outfit consists of shirt and pants, with beaded or otherwise
decorated belt and side tabs, armbands, cuffs, and front and back
apron, with matched headband and moccasins, if available. Ribbons and fringe are the only mobile parts of his
outfit, other than the roach feather. In other words, the outfit is
made to conform to the style of dancing.
Some believe that Grass Dancing came from young boys tying grass on
their outfits. Before a dance could be held on the prairie the grass
had to be stomped down. This is where many of the movements are
believed to com e from. Afterwards the dancers would tie the grass to
their outfit. Many believe that the Omaha tribe originated the dance in
their warrior societies.
The name “Grass Dance” comes from the custom of some tribes wearing braided grass in their belts.
The unique parts of the northern outfit are the shirt, trousers, and
aprons, to which yarn fringe, sequins, and beaded rosettes other
designs are attached. The outfit makers are fond of using playing card
designs-hearts, clubs, spades, and diamonds. Hearts and rosettes are the most common. White fringe is preferred, however, gold, silver, and other light color fringe is also used.
Bells are worn around the ankle. Mostly plains hard-sole, or woodland soft-sole moccasins, and sneakers are worn.The apron is probably the, most striking part.
The front apron (or breech cloth) is decorated with beadwork, ribbon
work, or a combination. The back apron has several colors of ribbons
sewn in V-shapes. The ends hang loose for two to three feet. Ribbons
also hand from the center . Belts are usually fully beaded. A “holster”
or drop is worn on each side of the belt and reaches to shin level.
They are fully or partially beaded. Ideally, all of the beadwork
matches. It may be floral, geometric, a combination of both.
Characteristic of the outfit are the large, fully beaded cuffs or
gauntlets, arm bands, chokers, occasional loop necklaces or breastplates, beaded collars and ties, and colorful scarves. The
real prize is the beaded harness which reaches from the shoulders to
below the knees. The two strips are usually connected by a large piece
of beadwork which forms and hence the name “H-harness.” Tassels or
ribbons hang from the end of the harness.
The perfect headdress is the porcupine hair roach which is attached
to a head harness. It is decorated with rosettes, hearts, etc., and
long drop stripped with fluffs, or drops made from chains or cafe
Dancers carry fans, eagle-bone or carved ’screen” whistles (some are
made from metal tubes), mirror boards, and dance hoops of various sizes.