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Look for This Amazing Costume Dancing Down Valencia Street

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Image via Dana Kawano
Image via Dana Kawano

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It's no secret that tensions are running high in the Mission when it comes to the topic of gentrification, especially along the Valencia Corridor. Adobe Books just closed, soon likely to be replaced by fancy men's clothing store Jack Spade (though not without a fight). Mark Zuckerberg reportedly bought a house in the neighborhood earlier this year, and rents are skyrocketing for both residents and merchants.

Professional dancer and instructor Amara Tabor-Smith aims to break that tension with a massive 4-day, five-hours per day dance performance that travels through the mission.

The work, entitled He Walked Swiftly but Gently Down the Not-Too-Crowded Street honors Ed Mock, a beloved dance instructor who lived and worked in the Mission and died of AIDS in the 1980s. He left such a lasting impression on the dancers of San Francisco as to not only inspire Tabor-Smith's unbelievably huge project, but to also attract more than 30 dancers who were eager to get involved when they heard of her plan.

There's a lot to appreciate in the multi-location performance, but for us the piéce de resistance is this costume, which was designed and created by San Francisco artist Dana Kawano. The amazing, multicolor piece was inspired by the "Egungun Masquerade," an annual festival that honors the Nigerian tribe's ancestors. Each strip of cloth represents a recently deceased tribe member. For Kawano and Tabor-Smith, the fabric represents the ethnic diversity of the Mission. Some of the textiles were brought back from Tabor-Smith's trips to Senegal, some are from Mission Thrift (the sequin mask, for example was a thrifted skirt), and some hail from Japan. One special panel bearing Ed Mock's name was made by one of the first AIDS Quilters Gert McMullin.

For the Valencia Corridor portion of the performance, one dancer wears the Egungun-style costume made by Kawano in the above photo at left, and another the wears one on the right, which was created by Praxis, a collective in the Mission that makes garments out of discarded clothing. The dancer represents the wealthier folks moving into the neighborhood. See them both in action below:

We're trying to get people to recognize and understand the importance of being able to live in that area, Kawano said. We hope someone can figure out a way that the artists and hipsters and everyone can live together and not drive all the artists out—which is a complex issue and (Tabor-Smith) is not proposing a specific solution, but we're going into coffee shops and trying to wake them up, get them off their phones and computers and recognize there's a richness in the diversity of the people in that area. If you'd like to catch the performance, the dancers will leave ODC Dance at 351 Shotwell at approximately 5:15 today, Saturday and Sunday, June 21 through 23, then travel up 17th Street to Valencia, arriving at Viracocha at 998 Valencia (at 21st), where they will then perform in the basement of the store (space is limited, first come, first served). Keep in mind it's a traveling show with unpredictable elements, so timing is fluid. Check out the map to follow along with the entire 5-hour-long extravaganza.

· He Walked Swiftly and Quietly Down the Not-too-Crowded Street [Official Site]
· ODC Dance [Official Site]
· Watch These Dancers Show of the Best in Local Sporty Style [Racked SF]