SF Trolley Dances Admission-Free Muni Festival

For the 12th consecutive season, San Francisco Trolley Dances (SFTD) returns to San Francisco this weekend. This is an admission-free festival to take part throughout the city, with more than half a dozen site-specific performances scheduled along Muni’s T-Line from Mission Bay to Bayview, on October 17 and 18.

San Francisco Trolley Dances is produced by Epiphany Productions Sonic Dance Theater and led by Artistic Director Kim Epifano, who started this unique performance art event over a decade ago after being inspired by the San Diego Trolley Dances. Each year, artists and ensembles are matched with specific sites, inviting them to create an 8- to 15-minute piece in response to the physical environment, architecture and history of the area.

This weekend there will be six, two-hour tours each on Saturday and Sunday beginning at 11am, 11:15am, 12:30pm, 1:15pm, 2pm, and 2:45pm. Each tour starts at the Bay View Boat Club (489 Terry A Francois Boulevard) and are free to attend with paid Muni fare ($2.25 for adults, $1 for seniors and youth, free for children ages 4 and under). On Friday, the organization sponsors a series of tours specifically for school children, called Kids on Track, which is not open to the public.

Kim tries to introduce new artists every year, and this year, all of the participating artists are performing for Trolley Dances for the very first time. Regardless, most of them are not new to the profession of dance – they are very mature dance-makers. Bay Area choreographers put together unique dance programming for each site along the trolley route. At each site, trained volunteers greet audience members, while professional theater artists act as tour guides leading audiences along the performance journey. Attendees have the option to walk or bike to the performance sites on their own. Route maps will be available on site and online at epiphanydance.org.

Participating choreographers include Byb Chanel Bibene, who is the director of Kiandanda Dance Theater, as well as Alex Ketley (director of The Foundry), Amy Seiwert (director of Imagery), Valerie Gnassounou-Bynoe (director of Yameci Dance Company) and Heather Baer (director of Cielo Vertical Arts), ODC Theater “Pilot 66” artists Zoe Bender and Sheena Johnson.

“The city is changing so fast,” says Epifano. “SFTD has traveled the T-Line twice before, but each time we activate new sites. The event inevitably introduces audiences to places they’ve never visited, and sometimes those places are old and historic, and sometimes they’re brand new.”

Kim Epifano also spoke about creating a dance alongside Valerie Gnassounou-Bynoe: “That’s what a library is all about: people working and researching at the same time. My research is independent from Valerie’s, but at the end we bring our discoveries and points of view together. I’m interested to see how she will interpret the site differently.”

In addition, Kim discussed mentoring the two ODC “Pilot” Artists, Zoe Bender and Sheena Johnson: “Mentoring is about revealing what you do. I don’t dictate how something should be. When you do something like SFTD, it shows you how not straightforward your artistic process can be. How do you make something that speaks to the site rather than simply put something on the site? I’m trying to help them to see new ways of making their work. I’m also teaching them the administrative art of putting on a festival. So in the end, it’s really a collaboration between us.”

Event organizers have worked tirelessly to create a public-private partnership with the SF Municipal transit authority to ensure Trolley Dances happens every year. The first seven years of SF Trolley Dances made use of all the antique trolley cars. Today, the event uses more modern trolley cars, like those on the T-Line.


Written by Carlos Olin Montalvo

Follow me @carlosolin