Dance aficionados wondering where to find cutting-edge performances need look no further than a Tenderloin storefront that, for 40 years, housed a gay porn theater. While the electric sign for the infamous Tea Room still glows brightly over the entrance at 145 Eddy St., the interior has been remodeled, and it’s the new home of SAFEhouse Arts.
SAFEhouse (Saving Arts From Extinction), a 10-year-old artist collective dedicated to creating new work, is celebrating the space, and a 15-year lease, with a “Tea Extravaganza” grand opening Saturday night featuring refreshments, pop-up performances by Ariana Hunter, Anandha Ray, Annie Kahane, Heidi Carlsen, Jeanna Pfieffer, Itoro Udofia and Joslynn Mathis Reed, and a dance party with DJ Mawaha.
Joe Landini, executive director of SAFEhouse, was a lone wolf dancer when he opened the first location in 2007 in an abandoned garage South of Market. Four locations later, it has evolved into cooperative community group that specializes in subsidizing and providing rehearsal and performance space for new and experimental artists.
“As San Francisco becomes more expensive, we’re one of the last places where that’s happening,” he says.
Landini points out that SAFEhouse is open to all. Applications for the Resident Artist Workshop (RAW) program are accepted four times a year, and whoever applies gets in. About 80 groups of artists annually get use of the theater for free, and they split the ticket money from their shows with SAFEhouse.
To help jump-start the next decade and a half, Landini himself is taking the stage in shows called “5 on 25” in December.
He invited some of his favorite choreographers to create dances that celebrate his 25-year career, and that, he says, “sort of dig deep and explore what happened with this City, through my history.”
The connecting thread between the program of four new dances and one revival is the artists’ resiliency during dramatic economic changes in San Francisco. He says, “Each of these choreographers has made the difficult decision to stay, and to make the sacrifices that were needed to contribute to The City’s character.”
SAFEhouse’s opening events are marking an effort to reach new audiences in what is becoming one of The City’s trendiest neighborhoods.
Landini says, “On this block there’s a bar where a round of drinks is 60 bucks. That’s what we’re competing with. Our tickets are what, $15?”
For those who check out the new SAFEhouse, Landini promises, “There’s a really interesting story to be told, and we’re excited about telling the story.”
IF YOU GO
SAFEhouse Arts Grand Opening
Where: 145 Eddy St., S.F.
When: 7 p.m. Nov. 18
Tickets: $10 to $100