Dancin’ in the Streets

Saturday was a gorgeous day to be in New York City, and an even better day to be a dancer. The 5th Annual New York Dance Parade brought together 9,000 movers to celebrate our favorite performance art, from Union Square to the East Village.  With that many dancers, I knew there would be a wide range of genres represented, but it surprised me that international styles so vastly outnumbered the familiar ballet, hip hop, and jazz.

 

 

The Bolivian folkloric dance, Caporales, features women twisting their hips in brightly colored, embroidered minidresses and some very high-kicking gentlemen dressed as Spanish military guards. The dance has long been performed in Bolivia’s religious celebrations, particularly Carnaval, where devotees commit to dancing in a 2-mile-long parade three years in a row in honor of the Virgin of Socavón. Religious context aside, the dance also enjoys a large following among young people in Bolivia because of its energy and athleticism. The tradition has taken hold in the US as well, particularly in northern Virginia where there is a large Bolivian-American community. Groups of hundreds practice the traditional dance and perform in “as many parades as possible,” says Vanessa Garcia, the girls dance troupe leader for Annandale, Virginia-based Caporales San Simon USA.

 

Caporales made a phenomenal showing at the New York Dance Parade, with over 300 dancers from several different groups. San Simon USA, the largest Caporales group in the country, bused in nearly 200 dancers from Virginia, while Caporales Universitarios San Simon Bloque New York sent a group of 50 from New Jersey, and 100 dancers from the Queens-based Caporales San Simon NY USA represented NYC. The heavily dressed dancers were drenched in sweat by the time they reached the grandstand at Astor Place. Even so, they went full-out for their performances, cheering and blowing whistles, drawing in the crowd with their enthusiasm.

 

 

After the parade, dancers from participating groups, including NYC Bhangra Club, The Pink Tutu Ballet Company, and Dance Manhattan, held mini classes and demonstrations in Tompkins Square Park as part of the post-procession DanceFest. This gave everyone, even those who had never taken a class before, the chance to sample some of the styles they’d seen earlier and learn about how to get involved in the NYC dance community. There was no Caporales lesson on Saturday, but Garcia stresses that the style isn’t limited to the Bolivian community; it’s great for anyone who loves to dance!

 

There is a dance genre out there for everyone, and with so many to choose from, it’s just a matter of figuring out what moves you. Saturday’s Dance Parade offered a great opportunity to get started.

 

Photo by Jessica E. Stack

 

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