For an area of the United States known for its creativity, innovation, and unique creative community, the San Francisco Bay Area has become notoriously difficult for artists and non-profit organizations.
Many commercial property owners are tantalized by the prospect of renting to start-ups, tech companies, or other office-oriented businesses that will be more likely to pay high rents. They also don’t want to deal with the often irregular hours of a thriving artistic community, and in the case of dance studios, the amplified and live music that comes with them.
So, these property managers decide that they’ll either raise the monthly rent—prohibitive for an arts organization budget—or they won’t renew the lease at all, in hopes of finding a more golden egg.
Moving in with the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance
The former happened to the Salimpour School’s long-time location in Albany. While the rent there was already quite high, it had been possible to remain. And it was close to Suhaila’s longtime family home, allowing her to go back and forth quickly to take care of both her daughter and mother.
But the rent was raised one time too many, and the Salimpour School formed an alliance with Māhea Uchiyama, an established and respected leader in Hula and Tahitian Ori dance and current Artistic Director of the San Francisco Ethnic Dance Festival. Māhea had been a student of Suhaila’s nearly 20 years ago, and the two master teachers have sustained a longtime friendship. Moving in to her established studio space, nestled in the back of a sculpture foundry, made sense. In fact, Suhaila had her baby shower there when she was pregnant with Isabella.
Since moving in with the Māhea Uchiyama Center for International Dance, the Salimpour School has established new connections and reinforced our global dance community. We took Bal Anat on a wildly successful European and North American tour, we added the Performance Prep workshop to our educational program, and Suhaila has joined the board of Māhea Uchiyama’s respected non-profit organization as an advisor on business and international growth.
On the home front, our local classes in Māhea’s space have been well-attended, and our student body has grown. Dancers in our Berkeley Salimpour Performance Collective are working hard on their set for Rakkasah West. And as an international institution, the Salimpour School is stronger than it has ever been with Collectives around the world, a diverse global community, and strong satellite schools.
And, Suhaila and Māhea have reaffirmed and cultivated their strong professional alliance as two leaders in their respective dance forms.
But, a few months ago, we received word that the property owner of Māhea’s sunlit studio decided against renewing the lease. Māhea had been in that space for 25 years, nurturing not only her own school, but those of the dancers and musicians who also call it home.
And as a testament to Māhea’s hard work, Berkeley declared January 22nd “Māhea Uchiyama Day,” with a celebration in front of Berkeley’s City Hall building.
There was never a question of whether Māhea and all of us at MUCID would stay in the Bay Area. Of course we are staying here. And Māhea and Suhaila sought to find a new place to call home, together.
Always a Silver Lining
“Leap and the net will appear,” and the net certainly did appear.
Starting in March, we’ll be moving with the MUCID to the Berkeley City Ballet, in the heart of Berkeley, California. The Ballet school has welcomed us with open arms, and we’re excited to be joining them in their home of over 45 years. The space has 2 studio spaces, which means that MUCID can host concurrent classes. Māhea is excited to start Polynesian classes for children here, too.
Their space is beautiful with sprung marley floors, ballet barres, floor-to-ceiling mirrors, a secluded courtyard, and a 45-year tradition of classical dance in our home town. The location is quite accessible, close to the Downtown Berkeley BART, AC Transit bus routes, and the I-880 freeway.
While it is bittersweet to be moving again, we’re excited to be crossing paths with the local ballet community, as well as nurturing our alliance with Māhea Uchiyama and her organization.
No matter where our local classes are held, the Salimpour School is not about a physical location. It’s about a global community of dancers dedicated to growth, discovery, and transformation as students, performers, and as human beings.