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MJDC says goodbye to old structures and embraces new ways of moving forward

Our summer, like for many, has been a mix of saying goodbye to old structures and opening ourselves up to new ways of moving forward with resilience, hope and tenacity... awaiting embrace.​

The Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab was a place to gather, to generate, to share one’s discoveries, innovations, and investigations. It was a place for transmission of ideas across race and age and a diversity of styles in our mentorship program CHIME (Choreographers in Mentorship Exchange) and most recently Encounters Over 60. The Dance Lab was a hub of activity that greeted everyone equally and we looked forward to it flourishing.​​

​​As the pandemic took hold across the world, important measures like social distancing and the sustained shelter-in-place came into effect, imploring us to close our doors to the community. Our board and staff explored every option, but in this environment there was no way to sustain our community space. With the understanding of our funders and our community, and after 15 years of movement and light held within the walls and floor, we said goodbye to the Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab.​​

​​Transitions are fundamental to every great story, and our decision to leave was also a decision to focus our resources on the artists and the programs that made the Dance Lab a special home. The building may have closed, but what carries forward is the belief that our community is strengthened by spaces dedicated towards research and development of the creative process, and we are confident that the values and programs that made the Dance Lab such a special hub will thrive in a new home once people are safely able to congregate again.​

We see the larger impact of this loss - the Dance Lab was able to support artists ranging from choreographers starting their first project, to established broadway productions like Hamilton the Musical. Over the past 15 years, thousands of free hours of studio space have been given to emerging and established artists – to explore, to fall down, to rest, to recover and to ignite.  Besides being the home of the MJDC where new works were created here and across international boundaries, the Lab was home to artists working in all styles of dance including Hip Hop, Ballroom, Jazz, Modern, K-Pop, Voguing, Burlesque, and Brazilian Zouk. The loss of dance spaces, particularly larger venues like the Dance Lab, affects the kind of work being made and the access that already disenfranchised groups have to art spaces. 

Fortunately our community programs for 2021 are already in development through the incredible support of the Hellman Foundation and the Fleishhacker Foundation. As we all evolve during this pandemic, we look to reinvent ways for CHIME and Encounters Over 60 to make a meaningful contribution to the lives of artists and our community.

As we said goodbye to the Dance Lab, we received the extraordinary news that we have been awarded a Hewlett 50 Arts Commission along with 10 other dance artists, one of the largest commissioning efforts of its kind in the country, launched in 2017 to celebrate the foundation’s 50th anniversary. This commission is for our new work Global Moves, a collaboration with dancers from China, India and Israel, the three countries Ms. Jenkins has made work with since 2006.

In this work, dancers from all three companies will come together for the first time in collaboration with the MJDC and longtime collaborators Paul Dresher, Alexander V. Nichols, Michael Palmer, Rinde Eckert and Mary Domenico to make a work that addresses, in part, xenophobia and nationalism, but also the social and health pandemics – the sense of isolation, frustration and fury we are all feeling during this time.

To be premiered in the fall of 2021, we have begun rehearsals through sharing prompts and video with our international friends as the MJDC dancers work with one another on zoom and one-on-one in a variety of locations. We continue to pay our dancers throughout the pandemic, including their interactions around how best to proceed during this time, and their curiosities – physical, social and intellectual – as they navigate the disruption to their own lives and families. Thriving and feeling safe as working dance artists in the San Francisco region is proving incredibly difficult. It is our primary and highest goal to ensure that dancers are able to remain in the region, stay healthy, and get back to work following the guidelines as they morph and shift.

The pandemic continues, as do we. Recently, Ms. Jenkins was asked, "What gives you hope for the arts community and yourself after multiple blows?”

"The resilience and determination of artists who believe art is a form of resistance, the young people in their 20s, 30s, and 40s is extraordinary and constantly fuels my ability to get up and keep going. Those generations fuel people in their 50s, 60s, and 70s, and we support one another in a way that is rather poignant and breathtaking at times. We are incredibly privileged being in this world of newly realized/extraordinary activism." Read the full interview here. Stay tuned to learn about our special event coming in November and further updates on CHIME and Encounters Over 60! Wishing you health, lightness, and resilience! - The Margaret Jenkins Dance Company

Photo Credits:

1) Encounters Over 60 with Merian Soto - photo by Kegan Marling

2) Margaret Jenkins Dance Lab after deconstruction - photo by David Robertson

4) Other Suns with Guangdong Dance Company - photo by Bonnie Kamin

5) Times Bones Prelude, Margaret Jenkins pictured - photo by Margo Moritz

© 2020 Margaret Jenkins Dance Company