By Diane Claytor
Get up off the couch! Get out of your chair and away from your desk! Move those feet, shake that body, swing those arms. Join the rest of the country and celebrate National Dance Week, April 24 – May 5. (Take author Dave Barry’ advice, “Nobody cares if you can’t dance well. Just get up and dance.”)
National Dance Week started in 1981 when a group of dance-related organizations began a strong grass roots movement to bring greater recognition to dance. Ten years later, sponsorship of the annual event was taken over by the United Dance Merchants of America with the goal of increasing public awareness and appreciation of all forms of dance, as well as sharing its spirit. UDMA knows the power of dance and has set out to inspire dancers by building a strong community.
National Dance Week is celebrated each year in small towns and large cities around the country. Master classes, gala performances, presentations and museum displays are just a small sampling of the types of activities dancers and non-dancers alike can find. Kickoff events are frequently held on the steps of state capitols and town halls, in shopping malls and town squares.
Over the years,the organization’s dedication to its founding mission of bringing recognition to all types of dance has inspired thousands of events during the ten-day annual celebration in April. Because they reflect the unique and creative abilities of the individuals and organizations who participate, an array of events, including the annual Flash Mob and annual Kick It Challenge, celebrate dance in unlimited ways throughout the year. This year’s Flash Mob is a basic hip hop combination to “Can’t Stop Me” and the choreography is available on www.nationaldanceweek.org. Dancers (and non-dancers) are invited to perform and videotape their routines on April 27 and submit them to NDW, who will compile all the videos and put it on their website. (According to NDW, “Last year’s participants represented dance teams, classes and entire studios. They busted moves in town squares, school gyms, restaurants and even a minor league baseball game.”)
For a list of free National Dance Week activities around the country, go to their website: www.nationaldanceweek.org.
And if you’re lucky enough to live in the San Francisco Bay Area, you can celebrate Bay Area National Dance Week over the same 10 days.
The first Bay Area National Dance Week festival was held in 1998, when dancers, administrators, and organizations came together to explore how best to spotlight Bay Area dance during National Dance Week. The festival that emerged took a national initiative and filled it with the innovative spirit of the Bay Area. As the largest per capita center for dance in the United States, the Bay Area’s festivities have been the most extensive and best attended celebrations in the country. Each year, over 100 dance organizations and performers present events during Bay Area National Dance Week, involving over 2,500 artists.
This year’s festival will offer a diverse roster of programs — including free classes, performances, rehearsals, lecture demonstrations and studio open houses — giving a wide-angle view of the many and varied styles of dance practiced in our area. Ranging from established company programs to one-time events, Bay Area National Dance Week is an opportunity for dance-lovers of all ages and experiences to take a grand tour of the many movement styles, including Argentine tango, classical Indian, jazz, hip hop, ballet, traditional hula, fire dance, Samba, modern, Chinese classical, belly dance, aerial dance, West African, contact improvisation and more! For a list of free events, go to www.bayareandw.org.
Diablo Ballet’s dancer and Resident Choreographer, Robert Dekkers, celebrates Bay Area National Dance Week on April 26th with “Move to the Now,” a free evening of eclectic dance in San Francisco, featuring Diablo Ballet’s Mayo Sugano and Derek Sakakura; they’ll be performing their duet from Dekkers’ AnOther, set to the music of Yann Tierson. For further information, go to http://bayareandw.org/free_events_details.php?e_id=102.
Additionally, the 12th annual sjDANCEco Festival at San Jose’s Santana Row will include a performance by Diablo Ballet’s Tetyana Martyanova and David Fonnegra on April 27. They will be dancing Fonnegra’s Resistance, set to Mendelssohn’s Song Without Words, Op. 109. For more information, go to www.sjdanceco.org.
No matter where you live, there are bound to be free dance-related activities in which you can participate. And if all else fails, watch one of the following movies, rated by celebuzz.com as being in the top 15 dance movies of all time: Flashdance; Footloose; Strictly Ballroom; Billy Elliot; Center Stage; Save the Last Dance; Step Up; Dirty Dancing; and of course Singin’ in the Rain.
As Oprah Winfrey said, “Every day brings a chance for you to draw in a breath, kick off your shoes, and dance.”
Diane Claytor, a Chicago native, has spent most of her adult life living in the East Bay and working for several different non-profit organizations. Although admittedly not a dance aficionado, she enjoys all types of music and is probably happiest when she’s plugged into her mp3 player listening to whatever the mood dictates.