Race: Stories from the Tenderloin

Providing artistic commentary on the disturbing trend of pushing poor and homeless people out of their cities in the name of entertainment and profit, NAKA Dance Theater was commissioned by San Francisco-based Dancers' Group, and worked with ABD Productions/Skywatchers to produce RACE: Stories from the Tenderloin. RACE is a multidisciplinary artistic work inspired by stories of the Skywatchers Ensemble, a group of residents of SRO hotels in the Tenderloin, and explores the violent impact massive sporting events, technology and gentrification has on poor people across the world.

RACE features choreography, storytelling, live music, mobile video and sculptural sets in a series of performances in San Francisco’s Tenderloin, including the Tenderloin National Forest (TNF), the Gubbio Project at St. Boniface Church, Larkin Street Youth Services, Boeddeker Park and the Ambassador Hotel.

RACE is a tribute to the Olympic Games and civil disobedience, set against the backdrop of the upcoming 2016 Olympic Games in Rio and the tumultuous 1968 Mexico City Olympics and is part of NAKA Dance Theater’s ongoing investigation into racial inequity. The show explores the concept of the race to fit into a society that ignores the wellbeing of most of its people.

“The issue of displacement of poor people, swept aside to make way for massive and costly Olympic stadiums, is relevant to conflicts now playing out in San Francisco,” said Debby Kajiyama, co-founder of NAKA. “The tech boom is ousting the city's most vulnerable residents.”

“The pattern of ousting the poor for profit, whether it be for massive sporting events or in the name of progress and technology is incredibly disturbing,” said Jose Navarrete, co-founder of NAKA. “Where are people supposed to go? What happens to them once the ‘games’ are over? RACE explores the true cost of our culture that values profit over people.”

  1. Welcome + Spirit in the Dark

  2. Stories from the Tenderloin

  3. Listen to the Gun

  4. Silver Sonic

  5. Leroy’s Story

  6. Kim’s Story

  7. Crazy Black Woman

  8. The Freedom Song

  9. Samantha’s Dance

  10. Simone’s Dance

  11. Wanda’s Story

  12. Gathering

The development of RACE is supported by Dancers' Group ONSITE program, the Bernard Osher Foundation, the William and Flora Hewlett Foundation, the Walter and Elise Haas Fund, Zellerbach Family Foundation, San Francisco Arts Commission, Grants for the Arts, Kenneth Rainin Foundation, California Arts Council, and the National Endowment for the Arts.

Special thanks to EastSide Arts Alliance; The Gubbio Project and St. Boniface Church: Laura Slattery, Tina Christopher, Father Franklin Fong; Larkin Street Youth Services: Bridget Huston, Brandon Wiley, Craig Lahti, and crew.

Created by NAKA Dance Theater’s José Navarrete and Debby Kajiyama with Shakiri and Kevin O’Connor in residence with the ABD/Skywatchers Ensemble at the Tenderloin National Forest

Original music and music director: David Molina

Video: Steven Sanchez, Jason O’Hara, and Carla Orendorff

Screen construction: Mirah Moriarty

Performer-collaborators: Warren Chatman, Wanda Edwards, Firefly, Donel Fuller, June Johnson, Samantha Kuykendall, Rennon Mahriano, Kim Mays, Simone Nalls, Hector Torres, Michael Turner, Jr., Duane Sears, Xehroit Daschaine/Silver Sonic, Leroy Staples, Steve Tanksley, and Jerry Tubis, Rita Whittaker.

Guernica Art in the Gallery: Melanin Buford with MF Urbi, Trinidad Escobar and José Navarrete


RACE pits communitarian values and marginalized voices (in the form of the stirring stories and personalities of its cast) against the steroidal economic and governmental machinations that serve to sort out winners and losers under the rubrics of development and gentrification.
— Robert Avila, dancersgroup.org, September 2016