The Bay Area is full of movement professionals — dancers, fitness instructors, artists, movers, and bodyworkers — who are all building interesting businesses and careers from the ground up. They don’t fundraise the way most of Silicon Valley does, securing millions of VC dollars and high profile investors before chasing their dreams. Instead they bootstrap, build their companies one client, one student, and one audience member at a time. As a Bay area artist and small business owner, I’ve gotten the opportunity to be touched by so many of these people, including the following six Bay Area movement professionals who inspire me right now. ❤
- Frankie Lee III, dancer and choreographer
I met Frankie when I started working on a dance piece that incorporates lyrical movement to spoken word. I knew I couldn’t just rely on my pole/gymnastic/acrobatic skills to carry the story and needed to work with someone who’s ear is attuned enough to the small detail of tonal notes, cadence, and rhythm in words poetically spoken rather than sung, so that I could learn how to interpret spoken musicality into dance.
Through our sessions together, Frankie has taught me how to move through pauses, and develop lyrical groundwork dance in a way that accentuates the words and allow me to encompass a deeper story. He is most often found teaching Twerk, Ratchet Ballet and performing with Dawsondancesf, where he will be performing to spoken word written by memoirist Sophia Aguinaga at the upcoming dance composition performance Letters of Light and Love.
Watching him dance is like watching light transform into skin. Here’s a peek:
You can follow Frankie on IG at @justbeing_frank where he posts many types of dance choreography from his rehearsals and classes. He also teaches Twerk at San Francisco Pole & Dance.
I met Jen Crane after suffering over three years of chronic tendonitis in my forearms. Before our first meeting, I had met with many physical therapists who’d dismissed my injuries. They’d glance briefly at pictures of pole handsprings, inversions, and climbs and tell me the movement was unnatural. “Just stop doing that,” they’d say, as if, even if I wanted to, I could stop doing what I love.
Jen Crane is different. From the moment I met her, she used a variety of techniques including active release, massage and careful attention at the foundational structure of my body as I demonstrated the way I was performing movement so that she could provide me with the structural advice and the tools I needed to heal myself. We’d watch the videos of different pole and aerial tricks and she’d point out where muscle engagement was lacking. For instance, in early handspring videos, she’d point out why a shoulder needed to extend longer to be fully supportive. She’d ask me my flexibility goals and provide handbooks of muscle activation circuits for me to complete in order to build the strength and practice the flexibility I needed to train safely.
Jen is a master healer but she also gives a lot of valuable information away for free in her blog where she breaks down common questions for aerialists, polers, and dancers, including shoulder engagement, using your butt in backbends, and how to use a peanut (two fused lacrosse balls) to open tight hips.
Jen offers virtual workshops that you can attend via Skype and works out of an office for in person patients in the Haight. As a contortion and trapeze student herself, she is full of knowledge and understanding of circus people. She works from a place of compassion for our weird obsession and doles out knowledge about how we can stay safe while still doing the insane things that we love to do with our bodies.
3. Micah Walters, contortion instructor and performer
I started working with Micah Walters just 6 months ago. I wanted to go deeper into my contortion practice and still be able to practice pole and aerial with the goal of getting a straight needle scale.
Micah has a calmness to him, that makes me want to suddenly slow down, and breathe deep into my belly. He speaks slowly and clearly and teaches a series of workshops with names like “Mindful Contortion” where he practices pushing into flexibility kindly and carefully instead of forcing the body to places it’s not ready to go. Each week, we spend about half of our 90 minute sessions strengthening glute and hamstring muscles so that I can use active flexibility to safely get deeper into my hip flexors, and use my butt to lift up through my spin instead of crunching down into it.
Micah trains clients mostly out of his house, a quiet oasis that hardly feels like San Francisco. You can learn more about him at Micah Walters Movement where he hosts a blog on movement or follow him on IG at @micah.walters.movement
Here’s a preview:
4. Sylphie Currin, contortion instruction, aerialist, performer
Sylphie Currin is a literal child of the circus. She began taking aerial and contortion classes at just 11 years old and now spends her career traveling around the world performing circus acts on cruise ships. When she’s state side, she lives in San Francisco producing shows, and teaching. Her teaches lyra and contortion at San Francisco Pole and Dance, Aerial Artique, Circus Center, and Trapeze Arts. Her teaching style is hands on, and she takes time to carefully correct form and instruct muscle engagement for each student, even in full classes.
You can check out her IG for amazing feats of strength and watch her performance clips @sylphiecurrin. She also produces Femmes+Queers, an all femme/non-binary/trans team creating monthly Halloween cabarets. Click here to learn more about their next show, Maneater Disco.
5. Nate Jame, aerial silks artist, performer, trainer, human unicorn
Nate James is a wild man, a magical, sparkle unicorn pony who performs and teaches aerial and contortion-style flexibility/handbalancing. What makes Nate James unique is his commitment to creating weird art all the time and his enthusiasm for training students so that they feel like the best versions of themselves.
Nate’s classes at SF Pole and Dance include lyra, silks, and intro/advanced level flexibility. Because he comes from a traditional circus training background, (he’s worked with the Hungarian National Circus and Cirque du Soleil), his classes include rigorous core conditioning, pilates work, and lots of pulls ups. Since I began training with Nate, his classes have helped me find both the joy and conditioning rigor in my training — not an easy combination to pair!
Learn more about Nate James at his website or follow him on IG at @theofficialnatejames.
6. Anastasia Sauvage. — aerial silks performer and instructor
Six months after I moved to San Francisco in 2015, I discovered Aerial Artique, an aerial silks studio on Mission and 9th. There, I took class from Anastasia Sauvage, and instantly fell in love with her slow and languid dance style. I began working with Anastasia 1:1 when I needed help developing routine choreography for one of Aerial Artique’s showcase series. She helped me and the other dancers find movement styles that worked with our bodies.
To watch Anastasia dance in the sky is to watch ice melt. She tells her students the secret to dancing with intentionality.
“Pretend like you are dancing in a jar of peanut butter,” she tells us. Every drop, climb and invert Anastasia does is technically perfect and she mesmerizes audiences around the Bay Area as a performer.
You can check out her videos and booking information on IG at @anastasia.sauvage and her website.