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Three Decades of Dance in the Mission

Deborah Slater is the Artistic Director of Studio 210 & Deborah Slater Dance Theater. Photo by Navid Baraty

In 1980, Sears moved out of its building on Army street (renamed Cesar Chavez in 1995) and the building became legally zoned as ‘live/work’ – a major coup for artists at that time.  Deborah Slater’s friend, Judith Lit, heard the news by chance, and the two were able to visit the building and pick their studio. Founded by Jenny Debouzek, Deborah Slater, Judith Lit, Michelle Larsson and soon joined by Helen Dannenberg, the space was named Studio 210 and very quickly became a favorite rehearsal location for San Francisco-based dancers, theater troupes, musicians, and other performing artists.  Since then, more than two hundred artists have used the space for various purposes. Currently, the studio has a few main functions: It houses Studio 210 Summer Artist Residency Program, established in 2012. They offer space, mentorship, and performance opportunities to emerging and established artistic talent in the Bay Area.  It is also home to Deborah Slater Dance Theater, founded in 1989 and offers space for classes in improvisation, rehearsals of all stripes, and the Bare Bones Butoh Festival.

Deborah Slater Dance Theater and Studio 210 are celebrating the 35th anniversary of continuous operation and are starting an Indigogo campaign to help them take care of the wear and tear and give the studio a much needed face lift. I was asked to help with campaign video and got to hang out with Deborah at the Studio 210. Anna Greenberg, a beautiful dancer, was rehearsing a piece choreographed by Deborah.


Deborah Slater: I have always made up dances. I didn’t know that’s what I was doing.  Suddenly I found out that “choreography” was actually something you can do for a living. I started taking ballet classes with 12 year olds while I was getting a degree in English Literature. Once I started, I almost dropped out of school, as I was taking all available dance classes.

One of the things I discovered early on, if I wanted to be a creative artist, dancer, I needed a home, a place that I could come to.  This studio has given me and other artists I work with a sense of stability. I really like the energy here. We had musicians, theater directors come in and bring in their own energy. Because of so much has happened in this room, the room itself has a charge; people come in and they make work.

“Studio 210 is where dancers magically hide out and experiment. What is beautiful about this studio, that is different from every other studio that we get to work in, and I work in a lot of them, is that this one is somehow hidden and more contained, which allows for another kind of magic to happen. There is this sense of protection for failure and innovation, for not knowing how to proceed, for wandering in shadows, for playing the fool, for attempting the impossible.”  Keith Hennessey

Deborah Slater: Studio 210 has held this space for 35 years while maintaining affordable rent, a clean, safe place to work and a low-tech performance environment in which to test that work.  Because operational grant money is so hard to come by, we are turning to our audience members, students, teachers, dance and theater lovers…in other words YOU. The curtains are ready to be replaced, the walls need to be repainted, and we would like to begin using LED lights as the building is tapped out for power.

One final BIG reason for this push.  We are one of the few remaining, affordable rehearsal spaces in the Mission district, once an epicenter of dance in San Francisco.  Unobstructed space at inexpensive rental is a thing of the past.

While making the fundraising campaign video I got to watch almost every performance that was conceived, rehearsed or performed in Studio 210 and I was blown away by the talent and skill of the performers. I look forward to attending the shows at Studio 210 and hope that they will raise the much needed funds to make it a better looking space for current and future artists to create and perform. The Indigogo Campaign is live! Feel free to check it out and help them keep serving you! 


At Studio 210

“Place for Family in Dance,” by Marina Fukushima (in collaboration with her parents Hiroki and Michiko Fukushima) Developed as part of the Studio 210 Summer Residency 2015 Photo by Robbie Sweeny

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