Streaming arts pick: ‘If Cities Could Dance’

San Francisco's La Mezcla dance company mixes tap with zapateado.
(Beth LaBerge)

With much of the arts moving to online and streaming platforms, here’s a look at a weekly standout:

My pick:If Cities Could Dance,” a web series by San Francisco public radio and TV station, KQED.

Why: This beautifully shot, award-winning program takes a look at neighborhoods across the United States through regional dances. Segments range from about two to eight minutes and are narrated by dancers, each explaining the history and meaning behind their chosen style.

The first episode, for example, is all about Voguing in San Francisco. Dancer Jocquese Whitfield (aka Sir JoQ) moves and poses throughout the neighborhood, while telling the story of how Voguing and ball culture gave him the push to come out and become his true self.

The episodes are also packed with history and culture, like in Washington, D.C. where Beat Ya Feat — a footwork-driven dance — is all about of “the rhythm, the roughness, the rawness” of the city, and how learning it keeps the community connected to D.C.’s rich Black history.

“That’s how we keep the legacy going,” explains Tierra “Poca” Parham in the video. “Each one teach one.”

Tierra "Poca" Parham doing Beat Ya Feet dancing in D.C.
Tierra “Poca” Parham doing Beat Ya Feet dancing in D.C.
(Devin Johnson)

Other cities and dances represented include popping in Seattle; Memphis Jookin; Chicago footwork; Bomba in Puerto Rico; turfing in Oakland; and contemporary dance in the streets of L.A.

My favorite episode (perhaps because I’m Mexican and a beginning tap dancer) is about San Francisco’s La Mezcla, an all-female group that mixes tap with Latin rhythms, all while embracing the androgyny and rebelliousness of 1940s Chicano culture.

“If Cities Could Dance,” doesn’t have a San Diego episode. But the series is currently in its third season and just won its second Webby award in two years, so let’s hope there’s one on the horizon.

Find it: Episodes stream free on and also on YouTube. The series is also part of PBS’ Passport app, which is offered to public radio and TV supporters.