Concept Dance Series Mixes Performance, Socializing — and Helping Out

The Concept dance series is a rare bird hiding in San Francisco's cultural aviary. Put on by RAWdance, it's pay-what-you-can, semi-undiscovered, and there's free food. First-date heaven! Or, for those muddling around sans date, you're practically guaranteed to meet new and (this being a dance audience) attractive people. Singles heaven!

Beyond that, though, lies something even more appealing and harder to define. It just feels good to be there. Part of it is the brick-walled, historic venue, 66 Sanchez Studio, formerly known as the James Howell Studio. The rest is because of curators Ryan Smith and Wendy Rein, the co-directors of RAWdance. They founded the group in 2004, and in 2007 they started this twice-yearly series. The two dancers, lithe and coiffed, have this emcee shtick that would be annoying if they were any less good at it.

See, after welcoming the audience — Smith: “Is this anyone's virginal experience of the Concept series?” — they hand out cups of popcorn, take coffee orders — “or else people get limey” (Rein) — then go dance the hell out of a piece or scamper offstage to ensure everything is running smoothly. Then they come back to vamp a bit, breathless and accommodating (more coffee orders, more popcorn), while the next performers prepare or someone in the crew leans over the front row of seats to ask an audience member to dim the lights halfway, as the switch is just behind her.

It's cozy like that.

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