The Hidden Dance Mastermind

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The Hidden Dance Mastermind

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“I’ve been shopping and renting from Jean (aka “the lady”) for over 10 years. Yes, it gets hectic around Halloween, but try to find a more knowledgeable source for your makeup and costumes. Jean knows the dance shoe business inside-out… I think that if you make this your first stop – D’Lynne’s will be your last stop.” says Wayne J. of Yelp.

“Jean works with me to provide my feet with the finest in ballroom shoes… We love Jean” says Cynthia G. of Yelp.

Helen A. of Yelp proclaims that “Jean is an expert in her field!” and [she] still [comes] to her from Sonoma County.”

There’s a certain wisdom and an aura of respect that people with experience have, and Jean Hedquist is the perfect example. Jean has the calm, yet mysterious demeanor that is associated with many of the members of the art world. She has a soft voice, is gentle and poised, and has bright blue nails, with a matching blue cardigan. She sits with good posture and her hands gracefully laid on her lap. As I converse with Jean, she rattles off names from the San Francisco Ballet, the Pacific Ballet Company, and of well-known instructors in Marin.

Jean Hedquist brought dance to Marin County when she first opened D’Lynne’s Dancewear on November 7, 1973. Before D’Lynne’s, there was not a place to find dancewear or costumes in all of Marin. Forty-six years later, the knowledge of Jean’s expertise hasn’t faded within the Bay Area’s dance and theater community.

The colorful and inviting D’Lynne’s banner from the pedestrian’s view

With a bright yellow awning, bold pink lettering, and mannequins dressed in sparkly gowns and colorful wigs, D’Lynne’s Dancewear is a pop of color on San Rafael’s Fourth Street. On the outside, D’Lynne’s is inviting, but unless you’re a true dancer, D’Lynne’s is intimidating once you enter. The store is much larger than it looks from its exterior, carrying anything for “ballet, tap, jazz, and anything in between,” and is decorated with racks of tutus and leotards in every color, leggings, socks, and dresses in every size and any type of dancing shoe one could imagine. The costume department is downstairs and isn’t really visible to the public, and as a result, only the real dancers, actors, and actresses of Marin know that D’Lynne’s is the place to be. As someone who doesn’t dance, it’s immediately evident that D’Lynne’s really was created for Marin’s performance artists, because only they would know what to buy out of the hundreds of supplies Jean offers.

Jean Hedquist is an important member of the dance community herself: “I helped many of the teachers before I opened the shop… San Francisco Ballet, when my daughter was there, and the Pacific Ballet Company, and we didn’t have anyone in Marin to service the dance world. So, I spoke to the {Christianson’s?} at San Francisco Ballet at the time, and many of the teachers in Marin County and decided to open a shop.” Before the shop, Jean already had lots of expertise working with dance organizations and even danced herself. She was born in Denver, Colorado, and danced throughout her childhood. She took ballet, tap, and jazz, and although she stopped dancing as she got older, she’s still involved in dance.

Her daughter Debbie, on the other hand, danced for a long time: “My daughter had to take a class every day or she couldn’t breathe, she said. Anyone who is an athlete who is used to that deep breathing, and whether it’s basketball, football, or dance, they get used to that… so she’d say ‘Mom, I can’t breathe!’” She chose ballet at the age of twelve and also pursued acting until she was twenty-four. Even Jean’s granddaughter dances. Jean’s dance expertise has given her family a full-blown passion, and now she and her family are known for their involvement.

Three quarters through the interview, Jean got an important call. I heard are talking about Chinatown and Chinese restaurants, and I thought I should ask her what was so important about the call. “It wasn’t about food, it was about the closing of the Empress of China in San Francisco. Do you remember that restaurant? Well, I’m a stockholder in that restaurant so I had to talk to him about what they were doing with the stock. I would love to go there again, but they closed!” Curious about why Jean, a member of the dance community, would have stock in a famous Chinese restaurant, I did some research. Jean mentioned her husband, Zeppelin Wong, passing away two years ago. Zeppelin was a lawyer who gave back to the community, and was a lifelong resident of Chinatown, said Stanford Magazine (courtesy of Stanford Magazine). He also knew a lot about Chinese food, and I assume he had something to do with Jean’s involvement in the restaurant.

Both Jean and her husband are respected by many in the Bay Area for being such integral parts of their communities. In the current age of technology, success can be really accessible to the greater population without a lot of passion. Jean Hedquist is truly passionate about dance and is committed to authenticity in every area of her life. Because she’s respected by so many, her expertise and wisdom are evident to every customer. The intimidation that comes from her poise and aura of sophistication doesn’t come from nowhere —Jean really does have decades of experience with dance and the world surrounding.

D’Lynne’s inspires its artistic customers with a motivational sign

But the community’s respect for Jean doesn’t just come from her experience and talent–she really does love contributing to the dance world and seeing how it grows and changes over the years. When I ask her what her favorite part of working at D’Lynne’s is, she responds in a heartbeat: the children. “They’re always full of ideas and the little ones have an amazing imagination, and they tell you all kinds of stories about what they want to do and be and how they want to look, and they’re a lot of fun.” Even after owning the store for years, Jean is still inspired by the magic of the art world.

Over her fifty plus years in the dance industry, whether it be selling dancewear, dancing herself, or conversing with high society dance connoisseurs, Jean has carried her wisdom, expertise, dedication, and authentic excitement with her everywhere she goes. With a store that is still so authentically respected, Jean shows that passion for something can really change a community.