Dan Mankin

Local Kim Labeau recalls of the Dance Palace in Point Reyes: “One morning I took a yoga class there, that afternoon I attended a memorial for a friend, and that night I went to see a comedy performance and laughed my ass off.” According to Dan Mankin — who’s been the executive director of this solar-powered community center for the past three years — that about sums up its appeal. A former circus director, trained clown, juggler and minister of fun, Mankin has had to drawn upon all of his skills to helm this West Marin institution. With the recent publicity on the center’s 40th anniversary, we took a moment to learn more about the man in charge.

1 What was your first experience with the Dance Palace? Attending Carol Friedman’s retirement party after she ran the institution for 37 years. She handed me a toilet plunger, and I balanced it on my nose. It’s been uphill from there, and, yes, I have used the plunger a few times.

2 How long do you expect to stay? Thirty-seven years and three months.

3  Highlight thus far? Our 40th anniversary “Hats Off to the Dance Palace” party. We had more than 300 people, a potluck, a hat-making workshop, tap dancers, a juggler, great music and dancing to Los Compas. The whole community helped set it up and clean it up.  

4 Do you draw a regular crowd? We have an irregular regular crowd. And then we have Bolinas.

5 Where were you born? Chicago, Illinois, in 1955. My middle name is Adlai. I was born during Mr. Stevenson’s second unsuccessful campaign attempt to unseat Ike. So from an early age I was used to being part of the good fight, however tough the odds.

6 Have we seen you on the screen? A walk-on part for Nash Bridges, and I am the jester juggling Ping-Pong balls out of my mouth at the opening of the movie Jack with Robin Williams.

7 Why circuses, juggling, clown suits? To steal a line: Insanity doesn’t run in my family — it practically gallops.

8 Do you think that some people just can’t juggle? Really anyone can juggle. I have taught hundreds of people, everyone from five-year-olds to 70-plus.  

9 You have a lot of “fun” jobs on your bio — did you ever have a “boring” office job? I was the graveyard dishwasher at Zim’s in San Francisco. I did learn to be diligent about cleaning, so you always get something from whatever you do.

10 Was it hard to step into Carol Friedman’s shoes? Quite a pair of shoes they were. Oh, and she is a dancer and I have two left feet, so my toes got a little pinched.