Heather Stockton, a Luna Teaching Artist who is moving on to a full time dance teaching position shares a sweet video of her students reflections on dance this past school year. She is honored to witness students across Luna’s programs find freedom and joy in movement and expression. This video shows the importance and impact dance can have on every child’s life.
Working at Luna has opened my eyes to the blooming possibility of dance education and the impact it can have on all of our lives. Growing up in a low-income household my family didn’t have the means to put me into programs and activities that weren’t free or through school. Although I got to explore many different activities and learn various skills, I desperately wanted to be enrolled in dance classes. My mother put me in community theater and choreography sessions were what I looked forward to the most. It wasn’t until high school that I was able to take my first dance class via a performing arts charter school. Since then dance has been a critical part of finding autonomy and confidence within myself and my body. I went from being shy and insecure to finding bravery, unwavering determination, and self-confidence. Through dance, I have found the ability to be present and let my mind go with ease. Since joining the Luna team, I can affirm the importance and impact dance education can have on a child’s life. I am grateful for Luna’s continued work and mission of bringing creativity, equity and community to every child’s life through the art of dance. And I truly believe dance is a necessary skill of life we should all be able to tap into at any age, but especially during our developmentally formative years.
– Saharla Vetsch
One story from my family’s folklore goes like this: As a toddler, before I can remember, which is why I call it “folklore,” I used to stage my own hula pageants in my mom and dadʻs grocery store on Maui. My three older sisters, who were my babysitters, had taught me all of the hula dances that they were learning. So, I was just sharing. I was fortunate to grow up in an environment where dance was a natural part of our family and community. Each weekend seemed to have a wedding, birthday or holiday party, full of dance. My aunts and uncles were the first to get up and jitterbug. They had learned it from the soldiers based on the island during WWII. Often, my Aunty Shirley, who was from Samoa, would perform with her twirling knives in her feather-adorned headdress and skirt.
Later, my sisters would disco to a deejay, and later still, my nieces and nephews would start the latest line dance. Folk dances were always featured entertainment. My sisters would be called (expected) to perform a hula or a Spanish folk dance. Even our church’s youth choir became a Philippine folk dance troupe, which is how I came to learn of the vast richness of my cultural heritage. Though I didn’t have a dance education as it is practiced today—I had neither a designated dance teacher nor a dance class—everyone in my elementary school had to learn and perform a dance for our annual May Day Lei Day celebration. Lucky me, my life was surrounded by dance!
Today, as a member of Luna, I am happily still surrounded by dance during a moment when Luna is experiencing a profound evolution that will expand our ecosystem and community of dance to engage all bodies, regardless of age and ability. At the heart of this change is our relocation to a new, permanent space at 931 Ashby, where we aim to embody a creative spirit of dance education, one that is joyfully experimental, reflective, deep and transformational. Our new home will allow us to investigate and promote a most holistic notion of dance, one that inspires all bodies to join the thrilling possibilities of the art form. From this body-based hub of education, research and creativity, we aspire to find multiple pathways to address global challenges.
We envision our new home at 931 Ashby Avenue as a community dance center, where all bodies are welcome and where any family can make dance a part of their life. The building will be a dance space like no other, where dancers of all ages and abilities can move freely, explore their imaginations, take command of their decision making and creativity. The new Luna studios will be more than just a building, it will be a fulsome, dynamic community of embodied learners, makers and agents of their/our own transformation.
Beyond the elevator, roof, sprung floor and the other brick-and-mortar elements of the renovation, Luna truthfully and most importantly will be about the deepening and expanding relationships of families, friends, peers, collaborators and stakeholders…people. Dancing folks, like you! We can barely wait to see you there.
– John-Mario Sevilla
I came to dance as an adult, joining a collaborative dance troupe in San Francisco called the Tartlettes. I was welcomed in regardless of my minimal dance experience to create and perform choreography, design costumes, book gigs, and support a community of fellow performers. It was through this experience that I completely fell in love with dance and the endless possibilities for creativity and building community that it offers.
As a nonprofit director working with educators of all subjects, I deeply appreciate Luna’s commitment to support teachers as well as students and parents, and the ripple effect of change their professional learning programs have in the Bay Area and beyond. Luna brings dance to students in public schools, social service agencies, libraries, Head Start programs, and many other environments, making dance accessible to children who might be excluded because of socio-economic, language, or special education barriers.
Luna’s policy work and ongoing support for dance teachers has had a direct impact on teacher retention. In fact, Luna surveyed past participants of their Summer Institute and they discovered that the majority (83%) had remained in the field.
Luna has bought a colorful three-story, 10,000-square-foot building in southwest Berkeley. The purchase will end a long history of displacement, which started in 1992 and resulted in the organization having to relocate nine times since then. The building will contain two studios for classes and workshops, a parents’ room and library, and meeting rooms for developing programs. To purchase the building and make the site ADA accessible, Luna launched a $2.5 million capital campaign. The campaign has already raised half the goal, and with community support, Luna is confident it can raise the rest. With a permanent home, Luna’s life-changing dance programs will reach more people and have an even greater impact on the community.
As a current Luna board member and co-chair of the capital campaign committee, I am thrilled to be a part of the effort to bring Luna’s 31 years of experience and vision to life in a dedicated space. This endeavor promises to be a truly magical experience, benefiting not only Berkeley and the arts but also the children, parents, and educators who will have a new “home” to learn, grow, and share their creativity with the world. Given the impact of COVID-19 on our youngest learners, I am committed to supporting teachers and organizations that have been there all along, helping to create a better future. I am hopeful that with Luna’s experience and vision, we can create a brighter future for our community.
I am inviting you to join me in supporting Luna’s capital campaign. Luna Dance Institute is already working with teachers and students that you probably know: partnering with SFUSD, OUSD, San Francisco Ballet, Marin County Office of Education, Berkeley Unified Child Development Centers, and more. They are also key advisors for Prop 28. Will you join me in supporting Luna? Luna will continue to be the strongest advocate for our children and they understand the challenges of the moment and the importance of arts in education. With your support, Luna’s reach and impact can only grow. Please consider supporting Luna’s capital campaign today.
– Tracy Gallagher
“You are about to enter the wild west of commercial real estate!” This is a direct quote, from an arts colleague executive director, and the first entry in the “Space & Capital Campaign” journal I started January 6, 2015, seven years ago, when Luna decided to pursue a capital campaign, and search for a building that we could manifest into a community home for dance education.
Eight years later, after attending 100+ capital campaign meetings, viewing 30+ properties in Berkeley, meeting with owners of two other potential properties that fell through, raising $1.3M, and losing our leased space due to a global pandemic—Luna signed the deed to 931 Ashby in West Berkeley on March 31st of last year. It has been a wild ride, and the twists and turns of this ride continue, as we enter the renovation process.
Luna’s building is across the street from Urban Ore, a block from Berkeley Bowl West and KALA Art Institute, and near the 580 freeway. It is the perfect property for us! Roomy enough now with space to grow, since the building also came with a restaurant tenant. The entire three-floor building is 9,910 square feet. After moving nine times in 31 years—I am grateful we will have a place to call home, a place where children, families, artists, and teachers can come to belong in a thriving learning community centered on the art of dance. Once the renovations are complete we will have two large dance studios, a library, offices for Luna staff and teaching artists in residency, a creativity research center on the top floor, and an elevator.
Last year at this time, we launched a successful advocacy campaign, requesting $150K from the City of Berkeley to support ADA access. An elevator, accessible restrooms, and ramps to the dance studios are all part of the architectural designs for this space. We continue to be grateful to the city council members who approved our request, and to all of you in our community who wrote letters, sent emails, and showed up at a multitude of meetings until the final budget request was approved on June 28, 2022. Installing an elevator is a gargantuan project. Never in my wildest dream when I began my career as a dancer 30 years ago did I imagine I would be considering elevator design, the cost of elevator installation (approximately $250K), and the structural relationship between the elevator, elevator room, and the roof of a building.
As we renovate Luna’s forever home, there are times when it can seem a bit daunting, especially since renovating a building of this magnitude and financing a project of this size is new and unchartered territory for me. However, when I envision in my mind’s eye–children and families laughing and dancing in one studio; a rehearsal in full progress in another studio; teachers in our creativity research center engaged in honest conversations about equity and dance pedagogy; friends old and new greeting each other, collaborating and connecting in this dance space Luna is manifesting—I am less daunted. I am inspired by what I see, and by the potential of what will be created with and by the community in this dance space.
We are in the process of having architectural plans approved by the city this spring, and then construction will commence. While we are under construction, come dance with us at a pop-up family dance class; or if you are an artist or teacher attend a professional learning activity or use these curricular resources. We plan to open to the public at the end of this year. I look forward to dancing with you at our grand opening.