Watching Fred Astaire and Ginger Rogers glide and sway gracefully through 1930s musicals such as Top Hat and Flying Down to Rio is an unequivocal visual treat. There’s just something about seeing dancers perform their fine tuned craft that is at once supremely delightful and innately inspirational—as if our bodies are made to dance and the movements must simply be gently pulled and coaxed from them.
But before you add myriad musicals to your Netflix queue, consider this—National Dance Week Santa Cruz will be taking over the city for the third year running and the festivities will be bigger and better than ever. Watching aerial dancers swirl high above your head or the sizzling sensuality of a couple dancing the tango in front of your eyes is a far superior experience to anything you could possibly see on HDTV.
Presented by the community-based organization Santa Cruz Dance/santacruzdance.com, National Dance Week Santa Cruz (from April 29 to May 7) is the pinnacle of all annual dance events. It represents such a wide array of genres and presents them in a plethora of ways to thousands of Santa Cruz County residents and visitors throughout the week. “It was the community’s response to this event back in 2008 that inspired us to continue National Dance Week Santa Cruz,” says Abra Allan, project manager and coordinator of National Dance Week Santa Cruz. “The 2008 event was a very last-minute inspiration. We began planning the event in February of that year and with a dozen phone calls were able to pull together a group of dancers to perform. We were not sure what to expect, but the response was amazing. Attendance was large and there seemed to be a buzz. I knew after the first kick-off event back in 2008 that this was an event the community wanted and loved,” she exclaims.
For those that may still be unfamiliar with the event, National Dance Week Santa Cruz takes the art form of dance and brings it to life for all of Santa Cruz County to see. The event includes such aspects as Dancing in the Streets, where dancers perform on stages set up downtown; Open Classes in which locals are encouraged to attend dance studios across the county for free instruction; Dance in Unlikely Places where you will see dancers popping up in bookstores, cafes and shops downtown; and Out of the Studios and Into the Streets in which local dance instructors will teach free demonstration classes on the streets of downtown Santa Cruz. Another unique aspect of National Dance Week Santa Cruz is that it works in collaboration with the First Friday Art Tour.
All forms of dance will commingle in galleries with other art genres such as painting and sculpting. “We have taken our collaboration with the First Friday Art Tour to another level,” Allan explains. “‘Off the Walls,’ will be working with multiple galleries in town to present site-specific dance including the Santa Cruz Art League, The Davenport Gallery, The Mill as well as seven other downtown galleries. Participating dancers include Motion Pacific Studio's Resident Dance Company, Flex, Zari Le'on, Baile Folklorico and Te Hau Nui, to name a few,” she says. Nearly every style of dance is represented during National Dance Week, including ballet, tango, samba, belly dance, contemporary, swing, Polynesian and oh so many more.
National Dance Week Santa Cruz is a boon for the local dance community in that it builds awareness of the sheer variety of dance genres offered in our area. The event also attracts thousands of people to the streets of downtown, thereby bringing revenue to local businesses. Previous years have seen steady growth in attendance, and this year, Allan expects to see the same upward trend. “National Dance Week Santa Cruz has grown in dancers as well as audience and participants,” the enthusiastic coordinator of the event says. “Our first year presenting our kick-off event, Dancing in the Streets, had an attendance of approximately 2,000 people. Last year that number at least doubled. I expect that the growth will be consistent this year as well. We have been very fortunate that the city of Santa Cruz Redevelopment Agency, The Downtown Association of Santa Cruz as well as the Santa Cruz Cultural Council have been huge advocates of this event this year, allowing us to spread the word farther and wider than before,” Allan continues. Because of such generosity from local agencies, Allan goes on to say that each piece of National Dance Week will be bigger in scale and more diverse in dance genres than the two previous years.
The amazing outpouring of community support, involvement and enthusiasm for the event has prompted a whirlwind of inexorable excitement about National Dance Week Santa Cruz 2010. An estimated 400 dancers will be participating, including many dance groups that have not been previously involved. “We have included a much broader range of contemporary dance with companies such as Flex and UCSC's Random with a Purpose as well as a group called Flying Scarves,” Allan explains. “Michael Mpyngu will be bringing in some mambo, and Danhda Da Hora and her company will be dancing Afro Brazilian. We are also very excited to have Baile Folklorico, a children's Mexican Folklorico group, who will be dancing as part of First Friday at the New Davenport Gallery. … And in the three years that Santa Cruz Dance has presented National Dance Week, this will be the first year that the Santa Cruz Ballet Theatre will perform. … We are very excited to have them,” Allan says.
Ok, so maybe you do still want to watch Astaire and Rogers fire up the dance floor in The Gay Divorcee—one of their most popular performances—but once their fleet feet have inspired you, hit the streets of downtown and get involved in a dancing odyssey of your own.
National Dance Week Santa Cruz will take place throughout Santa Cruz County from Thursday, April 29 through Friday, May 7. For the complete schedule of events and list of free classes visit santacruzdance.com.
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