After spending four years building out and running a dance studio within the walls of her Excelsior District home, Jessica Recinos is now fighting to keep her dream of creating a safe haven and creative space serving her community’s youth from being priced out.
In 2014, the 25-year-old dancer and choreographer founded Rising Rhythm, a dance and music performance company for youth and adults that incorporates urban and cultural dance, live music, spoken word and visual art. Unable to secure studio space at the time, Recinos converted her apartment at 1187 Geneva Ave. into an in-house dance studio.
“We would have our rehearsals in the kitchen because we couldn’t book space. One day she said, ‘I’ll turn this into a studio.’ And she did it — she got mirrors, lights, and then started bringing the kids in,” said Recinos’ former student, dancer Frankie Lee Peterson, who is now a mentor at Rising Rhythm. “It was beautiful to see the space shift from Jessica teaching these little girls who may be going through bullying at school, to supporting and pushing them to be stronger and better dancers.”
But in July, Recinos received notice from her landlord that her home was placed on the market for some $1.4 million earlier this year, placing her and the dance studio at risk of displacement.
In an effort to preserve what she called an “asset” in a neighborhood where few community-oriented art and dance spaces remain, Recinos is now turning to her community for help.
“We are not only are here for ourselves to thrive as artists and live here but to also introduce a more holistic aspect of dance to the community around here,” said Recinos, who runs Rising Rhythm with music educator and performer Manolo Davila, the program coordinator for the Mission District youth artistic development organization, Loco Bloco.
Since its creation, Rising Rhythm has set the stage for its students and members to perform in events such as Carnaval SF, the Mission District’s Paseo Artistico, PUSH Fest 2018 and productions by BRAVA! Women in the Arts and by Dance Mission.
Guided by experienced dancers and mentors, some 25 youth participate in bi-weekly classes held at Recino’s studio.
“We are family to anyone in this block, from Naples Street to Geneva Avenue, she said. “We love our community and intend to keep serving our Excelsior community within these walls.”
Last week, she launched a GoFundMe campaign with the goal of raising 15,000 by October — and the ultimate vision of bidding on the building herself.
“This space is definitely convenient — it’s a prime location for the kids to access it,” said Recinos, who is also contracted as a dance instructor with the San Francisco Unified School District. “It’s challenging because The City is so expensive, so to even think about owning something, about purchasing a permanent space to have roots for the kids here in the community, it’s pretty much a dream.”
So far, her dream has been met with support by her community.
“I see all these arts spaces that once existed in The City disappearing. Here’s another one, and its heartbreaking,” said Mission District community advocate and Carnaval founder Roberto Hernandez. “To me that’s inspiring, to see this young new generation that are artists from our community want to fight to stay here.”
On Friday afternoon, the campaign had raised nearly $4,000.
By the end of the year, she hopes to have raised a minimum of $280,000 as a down payment for her home — or to secure new, larger space for her growing program.
“Raising $1.4 million would be ideal,” Recinos said half jokingly. “We would love to have the full building, in a perfect world.”