It is that time of year again — the time when streetcars don’t just carry jaded passengers to and from work, but transport them into the world of modern dance.
This weekend, the public can enjoy several diverse, site-specific dance performances for the price of a MunI ticket. San Francisco Trolley Dances, now in its fourth year, is a dance festival that allows the public to take a two-hour guided tour through the city, stopping to see three dance performances by prominent local choreographers.
This year’s tour begins in the Castro, where Jo Kreiter’s Flyaway Productions perform an aerial piece off the wall and on the roof of Asqew Grill. Then, everyone hops back on the trolley to see Paco Gomes and Dancers explore immigration near the UN Plaza fountain. The tour ends at Duboce Park, where Kim Epifano’s Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater performs a modern dance piece set at the park’s labyrinth.
Between these three main performances, the audience will also come across surprise performances by the dancing puppets of Run For Your Life!…it’s a dance company! and Rosie and the Radiators, holders of the Guinness Book of World Records’ Long Distance Group Tap Dance record.
Trolley Dances first started in San Diego, but then were brought north by choreographer Kim Epifano, who now curates the festival. Epifano says that every year she tries to mix up the program so that it will be interesting to children and adults of different backgrounds. By being free and not in a theater, this festival naturally attracts audience members who may not be ardent followers of modern dance. And just like any street performance, it is geared not only toward willing participants who came out specifically for the show, but also toward random passersby.
“The fact that it’s outdoors allows people to see dance who wouldn’t necessarily go see San Francisco Ballet,” explains choreographer and dancer Robert Henry Johnson, who is dancing in Epifano’s piece.
Johnson participated in the first Trolley Dances, where he danced in one of the old F line trolleys, and said the people in the audience were “riveted” by the performance even though they were standing in the rain. “The art is so important — it brings people out of their houses and it introduces a form of expression that goes really deep,” he says.
It’s educational for both viewers and dancers, he added, because there are no dressing rooms, hardwood floors, or even heat.
“It challenges the sense of your comfort level and your notion of what dance is,” says Johnson. “It can be grueling because you may have to climb a building, you may have to do something you wouldn’t really do. It’s very fun and very challenging.”
IF YOU GO
San Francisco Trolley Dances
Where: Two-hour tours begin at the Eureka Valley/Harvey Milk Branch Library, 1 José Sarria Court, San Francisco
When: Every 45 minutes between 11 a.m. and 2:45 p.m. Oct. 20 and Oct. 21
Tickets: Free with Muni Fast Pass; or $1.50 fare
Contact: (415) 226-1139 or www.epiphanydance.org