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Local celebration of National Dance Week moves to April -- and online

Local celebration of National Dance Week moves to April -- and online

On Friday, National Dance Week will be taking its focus on diversity in dance online.

The sixth annual “Celebration of Dance” event will be the first virtual one. It will bring everything from Bollywood to ballet to ballroom to iDance Ministry Inc.’s YouTube channel starting at 6 p.m. Friday.

Look for local dancers from Wilson School of Dance, iDance Ministry, Charlottesville Swing Dance Society, Elite Revolution Cloggers, Chihamba, University of Virginia’s K-Edge (K-pop) Dance Crew and DMR Adventures. Also representing Virginia will be Liberty University’s D-TREX and Italia Performing Arts.

“It’s like a family reunion,” said Maria Daniel, National Dance Week ambassador, who organizes the event.

The Los Angeles-based dance company Syncopated Ladies and professional Canadian Bollywood dancer Shereen Ladha also will perform, giving this year’s event some national and international flavors.

“We have Bollywood this year for the first time,” Daniel said.

Together, dancers near and far will present everything from the energy of hip-hop, Irish step dance and clogging to the fluid movements of liturgical dance and Martha Graham-style choreography — and show the community that local dancers haven’t let the pandemic stop them.

The February 2020 “Celebration of Dance” event took place as scheduled shortly before COVID-19 pandemic shutdowns and event cancellations began in earnest. “Normally, it is the last week of February,” Daniel said.

Daniel said that several participating groups have been part of the event since the first year at Carver Recreation Center, including Wilson School of Dance, Elite Revolution Cloggers and Charlottesville Swing Dance Society.

‘Celebration of Dance” has exceeded attendance expectations since its inaugural outing, when the Carver team had to arrange more chairs in a hurry once the audience arrived. “I was expecting maybe 50 people, and we had more than 100,” Daniel said.

Seeing other genres performed expands young dancers’ awareness of the breadth of dance, which adds an educational element to the fun of performing. Learning how dance can express treasured cultural values around the world helps inform students’ approaches to the dance styles they’ve grown up enjoying. The swing dancers always amaze younger dance students who rarely see couples dancing demonstrated, Daniel said.

Instead of seeing the shift to online as a limiting factor, Daniel focused on the ways in which she was able to extend her reach for performers and styles. Presenting this year’s event virtually “opened the door to dancers in Canada and Los Angeles,” Daniel said.

This year’s program is presented in three parts, starting with “Beginnings,” which Daniel said focuses on dance foundations. Look for ballet, African dance, lyrical jazz and other styles performed by local dancers.

The second segment, “Let’s Move,” dives into more dynamic styles, including stepping and clogging. And last year’s popular “Street Scene” element will return, giving viewers a chance to see two different sides of the popular K-pop dance moves, which are a vibrant part of the Korean pop music scene. UVa’s dancers will demonstrate both K-pop’s softer, street jazz-flavored style and its harder-edged version, Daniel said.

And if you aren’t familiar with Jersey club dance, here’s your chance to get acquainted, with local performers as your guides.

“This project is designed so that the first section is 100 percent Charlottesville dancers,” Daniel said.

“Grace and precision” can be seen in Martha Graham-style choreography and liturgical dance, Daniel said. These genres let viewers linger over movement that is “beautiful, technical and precise,” she said.

Professional and pre-professional dancers are featured in the third segment, which is “all about unity,” Daniel said.

Look for a video performance by Syncopated Ladies that promises “such a positive message about unity and inclusivity,” Daniel said.

The annual event gives dancers a chance to stay connected and see what their peers are working on, Daniel said.

Through her award-winning work with iDance Ministry, Daniel teaches dancers not only technique and dance history, but also the spiritual aspects of the art form and its power to move people.

“Every time I lead this event, I thank God,” Daniel said. “Unless someone says, ‘We don’t want it,’ I will continue.”

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