By Sam Whiting
30 October 2019
Smuin Contemporary Ballet dancers don’t normally use white respirator masks, but they have been vagabonds for 25 years and they weren’t going to wait another day. They were willing to breathe in paint fumes and dust to finally rehearse in their long-awaited and still-unfinished $10 million studio at the base of Potrero Hill.
The San Francisco company founded by the late choreographer Michael Smuin in 1994 had never managed to secure a studio lease, but now it owns a space in the city. So this first day of rehearsal for its annual “The Christmas Ballet” was historic because it marked the first day the 16-dancer troupe could rehearse at the official Smuin Center for Dance.
Gone is the hassle and the wear and tear of subletting space, which meant dancers were kicked out for children’s classes. Gone are the days they’d have to pack up their gear, traipse across town and find parking at some other borrowed space, with a different sprung floor to adapt to. Shin splints and knee troubles are an occupational hazard in constantly changing surfaces. So is transportation. Most dancers supplement their income by teaching. Without a studio they are like adjunct professors, known as “freeway fliers,” shuttling between dance schools.
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