Oakland's SALTA collective plans to be 'always looking for a space'
THEATER/DANCE The crowd outside the Niebyl-Proctor Marxist Library in Oakland was hopping. Fidgeting, really — imperceptibly at first, but soon enough bodies were bouncing and flailing, until the scrum of dancers packed shoulder-to-front-to-back on the sidewalk morphed their collective way through the front door.
June 22 marked one year's worth of PPP, the monthly performance series instigated by Oakland-based dance collective SALTA. As much a scene as a performance platform, PPP has been building an ethic of serious, unbridled experimentation in a low-key setting where failure is as valid as success, and no one ever encounters a price tag, a door charge, or a gate keeper.
In terms of curation, PPP is equally promiscuous and shrewd, emphasizing a cross-generational perspective. "We try to reach out to people who have paved pathways for us," says one SALTA member. "And we've been a little brazen about cold-emailing, cold-calling people who are in town, like Jeremy Wade." Meanwhile, PPP has been building a unique audience for contemporary dance-performance and inspiring dialogue about the ethics of art-making in the Bay Area.
As an attribute of its headlong dive into experimentation and openness, PPP never sits still but moves restlessly and freely from one donated space to another. With each space come new networks as well as many PPP diehards. As its members explain, the anniversary installment marked the beginning of a summer hiatus for PPP, so that the collective can better focus on advancing other projects — all geared to creating space, in the widest sense, for dance in Oakland.
SALTA is very much the restive and searching reflection of its monthly series. What began as necessity — a space for dance — has been embraced as ethic. Not that the two were entirely strangers to begin with. As suggested by the conversation below with the members of SALTA (currently seven young women who preferred to speak as members of the collective rather than use their individual names), the realities of dance today imply, more than ever, a confrontation with the values of the dominant culture.
SFBG Which came first, PPP or SALTA, and what's the relationship?
SALTA It's funny, we were just talking about this earlier — it's so confusing!
SALTA I guess we, as a collective, came first.
SALTA And we named that SALTA.
SALTA But the name SALTA didn't come until after we had the name PPP.
SALTA We all came together in the idea of making space for dance. We were talking a lot about having an actual space and, in the meantime, [we said] let's do a performance series. So that came second, and then it eclipsed a lot of what we'd been doing. We're actually going to take a break over the summer and focus on some other stuff.
SALTA We want to have classes, [and start] a dance publication. We want to work on networking. We've had some out of town people, but just because the West Coast can be very isolating.
SFBG How did it all start?
SALTA We're all based in Oakland, and we wanted to have a space for dance to happen here — there are not a lot of venues that are really open for experimental work. That was the big thing: we're sick of going to San Francisco all the time, and we want to figure out what the community is in Oakland and see what we can build. Something that's been really cool from the beginning is that a lot of non-dancers come to PPP, a lot of Oakland people who hear about it from different arenas.