10th Annual Dance Parade
The 10th Annual Dance Parade (and the ensuing Dance Fest) convened Saturday, May 21 at 21st Street and Broadway, wended its way south to 8th Street and took a left to Tompkins Square Park.
There, multiple stages were raised to host the more than 150 dance and cultural groups, dance classes were offered and dancing was actively encouraged. The mission of the Dance Parade is to “inspire dance through the celebration of diversity.”
A lengthy lead time to the parade includes community engagement programs in schools, recreation facilities and senior centers throughout New York City.
It was delightfully apparent that the participants reflected the ethnic, cultural and demographic diversity targeted by the Dance Parade organization.
Despite a cool overcast and (at least initially, a light sprinkle), spectators lined the parade route. Many seemed to have been caught unawares and captivated by the color and exoticism of the scene. The lack of expectations is a license to simply smile, without judgment, and for many, to dance along.
Alphabet City and St. Marks Place provide a suitably diverse backdrop to such an event and made up part of the visual richness of the event. The Dance Parade is an open call to “get your freak on.”
Unlike most parades, there were no bands, no majorettes; most often music blared from the rear of each vehicle leading a dance group or organization. Many performing groups were attired in colorful folkloric or thematic costumes.
As for other relatively eccentric parades in New York City, there seemed an inclusive ethos that encouraged a degree of abandon and play and, often, an effort to surprise.
Despite a phalanx of supporting and participating arts councils and political offices, the Dance Parade still retains a bit of small town feel to it – but it won’t forever. Try to catch this event in the next few years to get the best from it before it morphs into one of those commercialized, plasticized cultural obligations that include more work and stress than fun. For the moment it is simply fun.
Photos by Fred R. Cohen. For more information, go to his website.