More than 10,000 dancers will parade in NYC

Updated: 2014-05-13 07:46

By JACK FREIFELDER in New York (China Daily USA)

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Shaking your booty is rarely this public, or this much fun.

Dancers, organizers and supporters of Dance Parade New York took part in a press conference outside City Hall on Monday to announce highlights and introduce some of the participants in advance of the eighth installment of the annual event.

On May 17, in Lower Manhattan, more than 10,000 dancers — representing close to 80 different styles of dance — will take part in the eighth Dance Parade and Festival with a 2014 theme Be the Momentum. Countries featured will include China, Algeria, Bolivia, Brazil, Jamaica, Japan, Korea, Mexico, Spain and the Ukraine.

The parade starts at 1 pm on East 21st Street and Broadway, moves south through Union Square to East 8th Street where each group performs before a grandstand. The dancers will end up at Tompkins Square Park where DanceFest, a free, four-hour festival will take place. It will offer the public the opportunity to see additional dance performances and join in dance clinics.

DJ McDonald, staff and volunteer chair for Dance Parade New York, said he has been actively trying to recruit more dancers from Asia and China for the celebration.

"We have a huge Chinese population in this city and I don’t feel it’s adequately reflected in the parade," McDonald said Monday in an interview with China Daily. "So I did a lot of outreach through the Asian American Arts Alliance and … Red Silk was sort of the capstone."

The Red Silk Dancers, founded and directed by Margaret Yuen in 1985, is a New York City-based dance company which performs traditional and contemporary Chinese dances. The company also offers Chinese classical, folk and sword-dance classes for adults.

Dance Parade New York is an entity of Dance Parade Inc, a company that promotes the expressive and unifying qualities of dance as an art form through educational outreach and artistic partnerships.

The festival began as a reaction to a 2006 lawsuit against New York City’s 1926 Cabaret License Law, which is a statute that requires local businesses to have a license for social dancing. After a New York State Supreme Court judge ruled that social dancing was not protected by the freedom of expression amendment in the state constitution, Dance Parade capitalized on popular support and started this event.

There are only 127 such licenses throughout the five boroughs, according to public advocacy group Legalize Dance NYC.

Greg Miller, executive director of Dance Parade NY, said his organization’s event epitomizes freedom of expression.

"The State Supreme Court said dance was not expressive, so that impetus was a very important part of this event," Miller said on Monday. "We had to crystallize what this event means to us, which is to inspire dance through the celebration of diversity."

Karen Kriegel, a Korean dance instructor and member of the World Dance Initiative, said many people are confused about what constitutes Asian culture.

"When people say, ‘China,’ they may think of one type of dance form when there are numerous forms," Kriegel said. "I am representing Korean dance in the parade, however the Asian community begins from Central Asia and continues to the Pacific. I think it’s very important to have that representation out there."

Marni Halasa, one of the participants in this year’s event, said the wide array of groups involved in the parade help make the program "inclusive and more visually entertaining".

McDonald, 2014’s lead curator for DanceFest, said there are a lot of contemporary artists working in NYC "working in traditional forms and changing those forms in significant ways".

"Getting someone like Red Silk in there, which carries so much of the ancient Chinese tradition with them, and introducing them to our audience and to the other dance communities allows that to spread out," McDonald said. "It’s a cross-pollination and this is what Dance Parade does best."

More than 10,000 dancers will parade in NYC
Rifka Lopez (center, at microphone), parade production director for Dance Parade New York, speaks during a press conference in City Hall Park on Monday in New York. The Eighth Annual Dance Parade and Festival, which includes more than 10,000 dancers and 75 distinct dance styles, is set to take place on May 17 in Lower Manhattan. [Jack Freifelder/China Daily]