Point Reyes community is reshaping the future of Dance Palace
The Dance Palace is experiencing a moment of rebirth.
An institution at Point Reyes Station, the 503 B St. Community Center is celebrating its 50th anniversary. Now the centre’s board is focused on reinventing the space according to the wishes of the community, said Bonnie Guttman, executive director.
Founded in 1971 by a group of young people seeking to create an artistic space, the Dance Palace Community and Cultural Center began as a dance studio in a historic downtown building known as the “Old Palace,” according to the website. Association web.
Relocated at the end of the 1980s, the center is today anchored in a comfortable converted white church surrounded by green spaces. For five decades, it has been the hub of everything from classes, lectures and shows to dinners, weddings and memorials.
Over the years, figures such as the Judd sisters of country music, pianist George Winston and activist Angela Davis, among others, have performed at the Dance Palace. During times of unrest, it served as a refuge during forest fires and storms, including the 1982 flood, the Vision fire in 1995 and the vineyard fires in 2017, notes the centre’s website.
When staff closed its doors as the pandemic emerged in the spring of 2020, the board of directors and the community slowly realized that the Dance Palace would never be quite the same again.
Since then, the board has received more than 250 comments from about 150 people participating in community forums and surveys, Guttman said. The comments will be used to draft new plans for the space.
The original church serves as a gathering space for up to 90 people and is popular for dinner parties and wedding ceremonies. The hall was generally used for an artistic program, while the separate main hall, with a capacity of 180, was the perfect place for dance, yoga, classes and programs.
“The bottom line is we all wanted it to open up,” said Ken Otter, board member. Although several programs have reopened in-person activities, most are being revisited to “make them more welcoming and accessible to people,” he said.
Otter said community feedback focused on opportunities for more educational and seasonal programs and partnerships with other organizations
“We have to think outside the box we have lived in for years,” he said.
The pandemic has forced the board to reconsider how programming could be delivered in a more accessible way, Guttman said. The grants will be used to upgrade recording technology to provide streaming options for in-person events.
“In most cases, the community itself knows the answers,” said Bob Stilger, founder of NewStories, a consulting firm that collected public comment last month. “There is this sure desire to be able to be in each other’s presence again.”
Guttman said there are no strong commitments to new goals. The board has until the end of the year to complete the development of the implementation plan for the next several years.
She said the board will pay attention to recurring themes, such as the desire of some community members for a more child-friendly space. Greater attention to Latino residents is also a priority.
How to finance the future will be the order of the day, organizers said. The nonprofit organization, which relies on memberships, donations, grants, and site rentals, will work to identify funding and ways to raise funds for future projects.
For now, some offerings are back in person, like two after-school programs and the Lobby Art Program, which returns in December. Guttman said December events included a film screening by a local actor and Q&A on December 11, as well as a Hawaii-themed holiday concert on December 18.
“We’re not going back to 2019,” Stilger said. “This is the opportunity to try new things.”
“It changes our definition of community, because it broadens it,” Guttman said.