I had walked by Spoke the Hub’s Re:Creation Center on Union Street a million times on my way to the Park Slope Food Coop. I often looked at flyers Spoke posted outside their center to publicize various dance classes, performances, and collaborative art exhibitions, thinking “What a cool place.” Last summer, I looked up Spoke on the web and found out that they have also have a performance/rehearsal space in The Gowanus Arts Building on Douglass Street. A couple of times, I went over there with some CDs and danced. On one of those days, I brought my then ten year-old friend Lizzy over and we choreographed a dance to the Mariah Carey /Snoop Dogg song Say Something.
Elise Long, founder and director of Spoke the Hub, has been a fixture in the neighborhood for thirty years and a key person who has used arts to build community. Here’s a description of the history of Spoke, taken directly from their website:
Based in Brooklyn since 1979, Elise Long and Spoke the Hub Dancing have been hailed by the local press and public as "neighborhood treasures" and "cultural pioneers" creating the Living Room Performance Space on 9th Street (1980 - 84); the Gowanus Arts Exchange on Douglass Street (founded in 1985, relocated and renamed the Brooklyn Arts Exchange/BAX, now active as a separate organization); and the Spoke the Hub Re:Creation Center on Union Street (1995- present).
Elise has an interesting life history. She came from a big family where her parents, both teachers, gave Elise plenty of support around her artistic leanings. Elise started choreographing in high school. As a college student in Vermont, she majored in English with an emphasis on dance and art. In the 1970s, Elise was involved in an “intense International folkdance scene in the 1970s” which was about being social and dancing with people. As a choreographer with her own Spoke dancers, Elise’s sources of inspiration are varied and include everything from Hip Hop to German legend Pina Bausch.
Elise is excited about her plans to expand Spoke to be a “well being center for the arts, with all kinds of art under one roof.” A piece of that vision includes a rooftop garden.