San Francisco’s La Mezcla dance company, founded and led by Vanessa Sanchez, uses dance and song to tell stories of Chicana history, culture and resistance. Blending tap dance and zapateado (rhythmic footwork from Mexico), Sanchez describes La Mezcla’s unique dance style as “zapatap.” Watch Vanessa Sanchez, Sandy Vazquez, Emmeline Gonzalez-Beban and Kirsten Millan give us a tour along Calle 24, the Mission’s cultural corridor, and dance before some of the neighborhood’s most recognizable sights.
Bonus Activities: Go step-by-step with Vanessa Sanchez to learn tap dancing moves. Explore a virtual story map and learn more about the murals and locations featured in this If Cities Could Dance episode.
In San Jose, dancers create an illusion you can’t look away from. Arms move fluidly, then suddenly lock into place. Feet glide across the pavement. The motions echo across the group in perfect synchronization. They pop, they strut. They’re Playboyz Inc. The Playboyz capture the essence of a city that shapes their every move. Watch them pop, wave, strut and tut underneath the SJSU Arch of Dignity, Equality, and Justice, through the intersection of Paseo de San Antonio and 4th to the steps of San Jose’s City Hall.
“People who came from the South in the 1940s, they came with so much spunk to make these ships for the war,” says fellow dancer Kabreshiona Tiyteea La'Shae Smith. “That just fuels my fire to continue to go hard for our city.” R.O.O.T.S. The Movement members, all born and raised in Richmond, perform a mixture of styles influenced by krumping, hip-hop moves, African dance and modern ballet. For the dance troupe, their approach to collaborative choreography is crucial to their mission. Watch Deontae Watkins, Kabreshiona Tiyteea La'Shae Smith and Aziza Thomas dance proudly in front of Point Richmond, along Macdonald Avenue and outside the RYSE Youth Center (where young artists created some of the music heard in this video).
According to Jocquese Whitfield (aka Sir JoQ), voguing — equal parts hard edges and soft curves — embodies the spirit of San Francisco. “San Francisco is dramatic because the rent is increasing, but it’s soft cause we're still sitting here, unbothered,” he says. Vogue balls — and the houses that formed around them — have long been sources of community and support for LGBTQ people of color. Voguing as a dance form draws from fashion poses, martial arts, gymnastics and pantomime; it gained popularity in 1970s Harlem. The style later took root in Oakland and San Francisco, and spread worldwide after Madonna's international hit "Vogue." Watch Sir JoQ, Shea Mizrahi and DJ Spiider catwalk, duckwalk, spin, dip and drop through San Francisco — from Chinatown to the MUNI tracks to the Mission.
Bonus Activity: Take a KQED Art School class to learn the basics of voguing with Sir JoQ.
Behind handmade masks and under animal furs, the Oaxacan community of Casa San Miguel in Fresno, California perform a folk dance that hails from Spain, Mexico and now, the San Joaquin Valley. Watch Los Diablos de Juxtlahuaca Oaxaca dance to the sounds of local chilenas band Tamborazo Junior—in nearby almond orchards through Fresno's downtown into the city's neighborhoods.
Bonus video: This KQED Art School video introduces the elements of dance.
In a special If Cities Could Dance episode, Dear Dancer: A Video Chain Letter To Move you, dancers around the country were asked to film themselves on their rooftops, patios, stoops, front yards, sidewalks and parks of their city. Watch this video then, create your own dance video about your home, your community, your city.
Find more playlists and free resources for families and educators in our At-Home Learning collection.