by Roseann Keegan
Zaccho’s studio manager and programming coordinator Sandia Langlois grew up taking ballet classes in a small garage studio in Southern California.
“I had a talented teacher who nurtured my creativity and growth as a child,” Langlois said. “When I had a problem at home or at school, I could go to Miss Carol’s tiny garage studio and move in front of the large mirrors, feel good about myself and feel comfortable again in my own skin.”
Langlois motions at the expansive 5,000 square-foot space that is home to Zaccho’s new Center for Dance and Aerial Arts in San Francisco’s Bayview District.
“We want this to be a place where everyone can learn the many benefits of aerial dance practice,” Langlois said. “Every child – and adult – should have the opportunity to express themselves through movement. It’s so liberating.”
The Center for Dance and Aerial Arts is the brainchild of Zaccho founder and artistic director Joanna Haigood, whose mission is to offer an unprecedented level of aerial dance training for people of all ages and skill levels.
“The Center for Dance and Aerial Arts is a place where professionals and non-professionals can come to train and explore all aspects of dance and the aerial arts,” Haigood said. “We have been working in the field for more than 30 years, and we are thrilled to have this opportunity to share our experience with our community.”
The center will offer a recreational and professional schedule of classes for adults as well as afterschool and weekend programming for youth and teens. The center will also offer neighborhood discounts and low-income scholarships to those who qualify.
The studio is hosting a week long grand opening celebration from Sept. 7 to 14, with teaching artists from the center offering sample classes to the public. A free family event is planned for Saturday, Sept. 7, where the studio will open its doors and offer free hourly sample classes to the public.
“The center will specialize in teaching all of the important components of aerial performance, from the strength and flexibility necessary for technical dance training, to the deep focus and personal creativity needed for aerial choreography,” Haigood said. “Each of the group classes will stand behind Zaccho’s philosophy of building a strong dance and aerial skill set while incorporating team support and individual success.”
All classes are ongoing from September through June, with additional opportunities for students to take concentrated four-to-six week workshops in aerial and dance instruction. Haigood said every teaching artist at the center is significantly advanced in their field and undergoes specific training and rigging safety classes prior to teaching.
Teaching artists include Haigood, Langlois, Chelsea O’Brian, Heidi Button, Jarrell Phillips and Gregory Dawson.
Haigood aims to further Zaccho’s legacy as innovators in the field of aerial arts while implementing a positive and lasting impression within the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood. By providing athletic and artistic extracurricular activities to the local community, the center strives to be recognized as a positive and healthy alternative to drugs and violence and a means to enhance creativity and self-expression.
“Since 1990, Zaccho has provided award-winning free arts education classes for the in-school youth of Bayview-Hunters Point,” Haigood said. “Through aligning the recreational curriculum of aerial and contemporary dance with individual empowerment, young students will positively identify their own success with Zaccho Studio’s safe community space.”
“The Center for Dance and Aerial Arts is a place where professionals and non-professionals can come to train and explore all aspects of dance and the aerial arts,” Haigood said.
Professional classes will include site-specific choreography, dancing with props, contemporary dance theatre, performance technique and aerial composition. Recreational programming will consist of aerial kite and ballet for teens, as well as an after-school aerial and acrobatics program for children. Adult recreational classes take place in the evenings and will include Zumba, aerial dance and contemporary dance.
Zaccho’s home has been within the historic art studio warehouses of Yosemite Place in Bayview since 1989. Described by Haigood as one of the largest dance studios in San Francisco, the studio is equipped for both grounded and aerial dance and offers a sprung dance floor, ballet barres, safety crash mats and various aerial rigging points to accommodate most static or single point apparatus.
Zaccho Studio is also the location for Haigood’s professional dance company, Zaccho Dance Theatre, and a pre-professional company, Zaccho Youth Company.
In addition, Zaccho’s Youth Performing Arts Program serves more than 150 predominantly low-income, African American and diverse children of color annually by offering free during-school and extracurricular classes to students 7-18 years old, engaging more than 3,500 youth to date.
Haigood aims to further Zaccho’s legacy as innovators in the field of aerial arts while implementing a positive and lasting impression within the Bayview Hunters Point neighborhood.
The performance work at Zaccho Dance Theatre is anything but typical.
“We create and present performance work that investigates dance as it relates to place,” Haigood said. “Our creative work focuses on making dances that use natural, architectural and cultural environments as points of departure for movement exploration and narrative.”
For 33 years, Haigood and her company, Zaccho Dance Theatre, have been internationally known as one of the foremost site specific and aerial dance companies in the world. Her dance company’s work involves in-depth research into the history and the character of sites, often involving local communities in the creative process and integrating aerial flight and suspension as ways of expanding performers’ range.
In the summer of 2014, Joanna Haigood and Zaccho Dance Theatre will revisit Oliver Ranch in Geyserville, Calif., as a continuation of her site-specific work entitled “Al Pozzo Di Sogno” (“Into the Well of Dreams”). Commissioned by Oliver Ranch for Ann Hamilton’s “Tower,” this performance installation is an original fairy tale inspired by the site. The performance includes dance-theater and aerial dance and travels through parts of the ranch’s renowned art installations before arriving at the tower.
Haigood’s current project is “Between Me and Another World,” premiering Friday, Nov. 1, through Sunday, Nov. 3, at Zaccho Studio, in which Haigood explores scholar and civil rights leader W.E.B. DuBois’ concept of “double consciousness.” For this piece, Haigood collaborated with composer Anthony Brown and media artist David Szlasa.
For 33 years, Haigood and her company, Zaccho Dance Theatre, have been internationally known as one of the foremost site specific and aerial dance companies in the world.
Haigood’s work has been commissioned nationally and internationally, and she has been awarded fellowships from the National Endowment for the Arts, the Wallace Alexander Gerbode Foundation, the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation and the James Irvine Foundation. Haigood received the Alpert Award in the Arts in 1999 and United States Fellowship Award in 2007. She has also received a Goldie Award and three Isadora Duncan Dance Awards. She has taught at the Centre National des Arts du Cirque in France, the Trinity Laban Conservatoire of Music and Dance Centre in London, Spelman College in Atlanta, Ga., the San Francisco Clown Conservatory, the University of California at Davis and the Institute for Diversity in the Arts at Stanford University.
For more than 10 years, Zaccho Dance Theatre has also extended support to emerging and established local dance companies to facilitate research and develop professional, socially relevant performance-based aerial and contemporary dance. By offering partially subsidized rent to resident companies, Haigood said the groups are given a platform to engage in topics specific to them and the opportunity to present their own master classes and works-in-progress showings in the studio. This fall, Zaccho Dance Theatre will formally launch a new artist-in-residence program to extend the same benefits to individual artists.
The Center for Dance and Aerial Arts is located within Zaccho Studio at 1777 Yosemite Ave., Studio 330, two blocks from the Muni Metro T Third Street rail line. Parking is free. The lobby is secure after 5 p.m., with bike racks inside the building. Call (415) 822-6744 or visit www.zaccho.org.
Zaccho’s Center for Dance and Aerial Arts Free Family Day, Saturday, Sept. 7, 11 a.m. to 4 p.m.
Free sample classes for all ages:
- 11:15-11:45 a.m. Aerial Yoga with Chelsea O’Brian
- 12:15-12:45 p.m. Ballet with Gregory Dawson
- 1:15-1:45 p.m. Acrobatics with Jarrell Phillips
- 2:15-2:45 p.m. Zumba with Stef Lino
- 3:00-4:00 p.m. Aerial Dance with Joanna Haigood
Week of Sept. 9-14, a weeklong opportunity for the public to take free trial classes: Call (415) 822-6744 or visit www.zaccho.org for schedule and details.
Roseann Keegan is a Bay Area writer who can be reached via email@example.com.