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Mission dance studio provides multi-cultural classes for all

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Rhythmic drum beats, energetic bodies and a ready-to-dance community are just some of the things you will find when visiting the Mission District’s ODC dance studio.

With a variety of courses covering a range of styles and ages, ODC has made itself welcoming enough for anyone to get up and dance.

The ODC dance company, a 46-year-old organization, arrived in the Mission in 1976 after moving from Oberlin, Ohio. Beginning as a small modern and contemporary company, it has since transitioned itself from a company to a school and theater as well.

“We’ve always been based on the belief that everyone should have the opportunity to dance and that anybody can dance,” said ODC director and founding member Kimi Okada. “You don’t have to be in the professional dance world to have a place to come and be with other people who love movement at whatever level you want to be at.”

This belief in offering everyone the opportunity to dance, is part of what led ODC to incorporate Rhythm and Motion, a 25-year-old organization founded by Consuelo Faust and formerly located on Mission Street (between 6th and 7th streets), into its programming in 2006.

The Rhythm and Motion program now delivers an eccentric variety of classes at ODC.

“We want everyone to find a class that they feel welcome and comfortable in,” said Okada. “Be adventurous, be courageous and have fun!”

One of the many teachers who is now the artistic director for Rhythm and Motion is Dudley Flores. Flores first trained with the Rhythm and Motion program as a dancer and a teacher. Seeing his students grow as dancers is his favorite part of his job.

“Our classes—the best way to say it—it’s a dance workout class, but it’s more dance-based than fitness,” said Flores. “The diversity of the program definitely makes us stand out. You can find a professional dancer in a beginner class, which shows that students are very open to trying different things.”

Raffaela Falschi Macias has been teaching at ODC for over 15 years. If you’re looking for a high-energy Latin class, Macias is a popular choice.

“Her [Macias] classes are always fun to attend and full of energy,” said Christina Barreto, 32, a student of Macias.

Ryan Mead, another well-known instructor, has taught a mixed-level salsa class every Friday for the past 11 years. At the age of 19 Mead went on a trip to Cuba as a musician and was so inspired by the Latin-style dances that he began pursuing them.

Every second Friday, Mead and three other instructors put on a monthly party after the Friday night classes, where they open the studio for people to dance and socialize from 9:30 p.m. to midnight. The event is free for those who have taken classes and $5 for the general public.

Mead feels that the Friday night classes differ from others taught at ODC in several important ways, such as being one of the only groups that offers partner dancing.

“We mostly focus on the fun and social aspect of dancing,” Mead said. “One of the things my partner Sidney started was encouraging women to lead, which in fact, we also have a lot of men learning to follow.”

Those looking for a bargain, will be happy to learn that musician and lead artist Alfie Macias is providing a free dance class to the Mission neighborhood, having recently received a grant through the Cal Art Council.

To find more information about ODC’s programming email the school at info@odcschool.org or visit its website at ODC.dance.

Story by: Jazmine Sanchez