Written for KQED Arts, December 23, 2015
After inspiring people to dance for almost four years, Studio 1924, which was once described as being “Best Dance School” in Oakland, will be closing its doors at its current location on Feb. 10 of next year.
The building’s owner — the third in just as many years — recently informed the studio’s owners that their lease will not be extended, according to studio co-founder Melissa Agocs.
“The most recent owners originally said the business could be on a month-to-month basis until a new location was found, but then changed their minds,” wrote Agocs in an email to KQED.
The studio first opened in 2012, when Agocs took a leap of faith and began renting the downtown Oakland space shortly after being laid off her previous job. Agocs and fellow co-founder Count Glover agreed to lease the space when the owner at the time was about to leave the country.
“We were kinda under the gun,” says Glover of their initial decision to lease.
The studio first became popular as a venue for people to stay active during their lunch break. Now the studio has three-to-four classes each day and is packed with kids classes on Saturdays.
“We are a little bit more eclectic in terms of what we have to offer here,” Glover says about the wide range of classes as well as people who attend.
Agocs says people use the time during classes to get to know one another beyond the screens, “It’s good for the brain and body,” she says. With many proven positive effects, Agocs notes that dance is even prescribedas a treatment for some.
James Wiester, who works in San Francisco’s booming construction business, started dancing at Studio 1924 about two years ago and is now a regular who shows up twice a week for salsa classes. For him, the studio’s diverse environment, made up of dancers of all ages, ethnicities and livelihoods, is what he appreciated most about the studio.
“The environment they have created is among the best I have seen in the Bay Area,” Wiester says.
Despite full classes and dedicated customers, the studio has fallen to a growing affordability crisis in Oakland. Rents for nearby spaces have easily doubled in the last few years, according to Glover.
“We joke that Oakland is the new Brooklyn,” Glover says.
Gina Hill, who moved to Oakland to teach in the mid 1990s, has been taking samba classes at Studio 1924 since it opened and is frustrated to see yet another art space close down.
“Gentrification is a huge part of it,” Hill says. “People of color and artists end up not being able to stay and afford Oakland.”
Hill is guessing the space will be renovated and flipped to create more “boring office space.”
The owners have been on the hunt for a new space since the spring, but are finding the search for another studio in the Bay Area increasingly difficult. As for the space, the current tenants do not know who will be next to occupy 1924 Franklin St., just blocks from the 19th Street Bart station, but it’s highly unlikely it will be anything like Studio 1924.