Dancin’ in the Street…and Parks...and Public Squares

A Limón dance class in Bryant Park

Ahhh Summer in New York City. Time for Mister Softee ice cream trucks, outdoor movies, Shakespeare in the Park, SummerStage performances and more dancing opportunities than any one human could possibly keep up with. Truly, you can’t walk six blocks between Memorial Day and Labor Day without coming across an al fresco flamenco, salsa or Zumba class. (Forget the grocery shopping—there’s booty-shaking to be done!) I’ve rounded up just a few of my favorite NYC summer dance events to help you get moving:

Limón Classes in Bryant Park

Every Saturday morning from May 25–September 7, movers of all ages and levels can get a taste of Limón technique as part of Bryant Park Moves. Classes are free, held on the grassy lawn of the park and taught by real, live Limón company members. This is one of those things where many people can’t even appreciate how cool it is. Free class from company members?! Plus live accompaniment, you say? What a treat!

NYC Dance Week

These classes aren’t outdoors, but they are free! For ten days starting June 20, dancers and nondancers alike can test the waters at some of the city’s top studios including Mark Morris Dance Center and the Ailey School. There are about 100 classes to choose from, in classical, traditional and ballroom dance as well as fitness and wellness. In other words, your last week of June just got booked solid.

34th Street Partnership

This is one of those easily stumbled-upon classes that you wind up wishing you’d known about ahead of time. Now you can! The 34th Street Partnership is a nonprofit that manages the Herald Square/Greeley Square area of Midtown. They’re offering 5:30 pm Tuesday salsa classes and Thursday Zumba every week until the end of August. Classes meet in front of Macy’s (Broadway between 34th and 35th Streets) for that total summer-in-the-city experience.

Midsummer Night Swing

Tickets went on sale last week for the three-week festival’s 25th anniversary season. Midsummer Night Swing is a giant big-band dance party held every Tuesday–Saturday night between June 25 and July 13. Each evening begins with a dance lesson on the plaza at Lincoln Center’s Damrosch Park. Styles range from Lindy Hop and jitterbug to salsa and hustle, depending on that evening’s musical performer. Check the calendar for your favorite style, and make sure you arrive early, because the crowds at MNS are intense.

What’s your favorite place to dance during the summer? Have you tried hosting community or outdoors classes yourself? Tell us about it in the comments section!

Photo courtesy Audrey Ross/Publicity

Teachers Trending
Annika Abel Photography, courtesy Griffith

When the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis last May catalyzed nationwide protests against systemic racism, the tap community resumed longstanding conversations about teaching a Black art form in the era of Black Lives Matter. As these dialogues unfolded on social media, veteran Dorrance Dance member Karida Griffith commented infrequently, finding it difficult to participate in a meaningful way.

"I had a hard time watching people have these conversations without historical context and knowledge," says Griffith, who now resides in her hometown of Portland, Oregon, after many years in New York City. "It was clear that there was so much information missing."

For example, she observed people discussing tap while demonstrating ignorance about Black culture. Or, posts that tried to impose upon tap the history or aesthetics of European dance forms.

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Studio Owners
Courtesy Tonawanda Dance Arts

If you're considering starting a summer program this year, you're likely not alone. Summer camp and class options are a tried-and-true method for paying your overhead costs past June—and, done well, could be a vehicle for making up for lost 2020 profits.

Plus, they might take on extra appeal for your studio families this year. Those struggling financially due to the pandemic will be in search of an affordable local programming option rather than an expensive, out-of-town intensive. And with summer travel still likely in question this spring as July and August plans are being made, your studio's local summer training option remains a safe bet.

The keys to profitable summer programming? Figuring out what type of structure will appeal most to your studio clientele, keeping start-up costs low—and, ideally, converting new summer students into new year-round students.

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Dancer Diary
Claire, McAdams, courtesy Houston Ballet

Former Houston Ballet dancer Chun Wai Chan has always been destined for New York City Ballet.

While competing at Prix de Lausanne in 2010, he was offered summer program scholarships at both the School of American Ballet and Houston Ballet. However, because two of the competition's winners that year were Houston Ballet's Aaron Sharratt and Liao Xiang, dancers Chan idolized, he turned down SAB. He joined Houston Ballet II in 2010, the main company's corps de ballet in 2012, and was promoted to principal in 2017. Oozing confidence and technical prowess, Chan was a Houston favorite, and even landed himself a spot on Dance Magazine's "25 to Watch."

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