You know the hair salon—stylists and clients buzzing about everything: especially what’s hip in hair and, at my salon, dance! I was in to see my stylist, Kathy Wolff, for a cut and color at Shaar Salon on Wilson St. and the talk turned to So You Think You Can Dance. I hadn’t seen the new episode, but Wolff, her associate Joseph Blanchard and his client, a Petaluma High School senior and long-time ballerina with a troupe in Santa Rosa, filled me in. Consensus was the “tap boy” really can dance. I asked what made him so good and learned all about Kathy’s background in dance—she’s not only a great stylist and master colorist, Kathy Wolff is an expert in Tap, Hip Hop, Belly Dance and the leader of two belly dancing troupes.
A native of Los Angeles, she’d been doing celebrity hair—for Supertramps’ bass player, the head writer for General Hospital, John Fogerty’s attorney and Slash’s girlfriend (Guns and Roses) among many—but she wanted a change. Wolff moved to Northern California on “March twenty seventh, 1987, just after eleven in the morning. I’ll never forget it.” She laughs. “The great escape.”
She landed in San Francisco and rented a station in a salon where the tension and conflict between the salon owners was so marked she watched a client turn around and walk out the door. She soon followed. “You have to have a truly respectful and harmonious environment. You can’t fake it.”
Eventually Wolff settled near family in Cotati. She worked at Capelli Salon and became a resident Petaluman when her daughter entered Petaluma Junior High School. I found Kathy through one of her clients in a yoga class at Bodyworks on Second Street (I’ve heard they’ve closed. Sad—it was a great yoga studio.) when I admired my classmate’s hair, and I’ve been following Kathy around Petaluma’s salons since.
First for me was Repunzel’s Hair Salon on Keller. Later Kathy (and I) moved to Lauthr Salon on Petaluma Blvd. just off Washington. I loved going to that salon for my fashion fix: adorable handbags, and the historic building. The original floors creaked and sloped, lending an old world charm to the elegant decor. Wolff was happy there too. Maybe the cricks and cracks of the floor fed into her passion for rhythm? But one day, surfing Craig’s list she happened on a 1970’s home with a two-station salon attached. She had not intended leaving Lauthr, but how could she resist? Shaar Salon was born.
She says it was easy to open since she already had her cosmetology license. All she needed was her Petaluma Business License and her Establishment License issued by the Department of Consumer Affairs: Board of Barbering and Cosmetology. That’s not as easy as Wolff makes out. I read over the requirements for salons and cosmetologists and discovered that a salon is highly regulated. Did you know the law mandates all combs and brushes need the hair removed, be washed in soap and water and soaked for 10 minutes in a disinfectant solution between clients? Kathy suggests that only about 5% of stylists clean according to law. Shaar does. Kathy once left a salon when she saw the worker sniff a used towel then toss it in the dryer and reuse it with a new client. Towels, etc. must be washed and dried between customers. Shaar does. The bathroom must provide paper towels, not cloth towels. Disposable cups must be provided with water. Shaar—yes and yes!
Wolff was excited, “not the usual reaction,” when the inspector came to check out all these details. Shaar passed with flying colors. “I felt legit.” The only things the salon needed were products (she uses Goldwell hair color and products) and Kathy’s friend and associate, Joseph, colorist par excellence. She says “I snagged him from Repunzel.” And the two have created that harmonious environment. The name Shaar means “hair” in Egyptian Arabic and the unpretentious salon is livened with Wolff’s collection of Egyptian and Turkish plates, lamps and my favorite piece: a graceful Turkish mint-tea service that takes pride of place against a deep red background. I’m impressed with the cleanliness and order of the premise and the fact that it is well ventilated. I love the hair colors but don’t want to choke on the dye fumes! That would ruin the cup of tea I drink while I wait for the color to set.
But what does any of this have to do with dance? It was the “tap boy” that led Wolff to explain she got her start in dance at age thirteen with tap lessons bestowed on her by a generous uncle. She worked under Tony Award winning choreographer Danny Daniels, known for his work in film and TV, notably, Pennies from Heaven and Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom. Fifteen years into her tap and Hip Hop career, Wolf saw the Hahbi’Ru belly dance troupe perform at the Renaissance Faire and was smitten. She has always been inspired by anything rhythmic, “being a tap dancer and a very bad drummer,” (she got her first drum kit at eight) so when she injured her ankle she “put tap on the shelf” and turned belly dancer.
Tap, Hip Hop and Belly Dance are based on the music’s rhythms as opposed to other types of dance such as Ballet and Modern Jazz, which illustrate the melody and lyrical portions of the music. In classical Belly Dance, you have to interpret the time signatures and tempo changes with the melody playing over. Rhythms come from different regions and are what dictate the dabke and beladi movements.
Confused? You don’t need to be: Wolff teaches Belly Dance through the Sebastopol Center for the Arts and S.R.J.C. Ten years ago her teacher retired and passed the Dance Journey troupe and classes to Kathy. The on-going Monday night class is open for beginners and dancers who want to brush-up. Wolff welcomes drop-ins.
Just prefer to watch dance? Wolff’s troupes, Dance Journey and Katherina’s Habibi Dancers, perform all over Northern California. Dance Journey has won both first and third place in the troupe category in the North Coast Belly Dance Competition. They’ve got shows coming up on Oct. 11th and 12th at the North Bay Bellydance Bazaar in Sebastopol, the Annual Halloween Hafla at the Glazer Center in Santa Rosa on Friday, October 24th at 7:00 pm, and friend Dance Journey’s facebook page for info on the North Bay belly dancing holiday dance “office party” that Alnisa started at Papa’s Taverna and is open to all.
Get your hair done before the belly dance party. I heard a rumor that Kathy and Joseph may be serving wine in those regulated paper cups in December, and along with color and cuts, the salon specializes in special occasion hair: weddings, proms, photo shoots, and costume hair—like my Charmian London do for the launch party of our Redwood Writers 2013 Anthology.
I watched So You Think You Can Dance, and with my new salon gained knowledge I ask you, where were the Hip Hop twistiflexes, the popping and the locking?
I know the tutting is going on at Shaar Salon.