When I was graduating from college and early in my dance career, I felt a certain protectiveness toward Philadelphia. I am not a native, but I spent my formative years here, and of all the places I had been up until that point I like Philadelphia the best. It was less crowded than New York, faster than Dallas, and wittier than California. ”Are you from New York?” people would ask when they heard my proclamation of loyalty to dance and the East Coast. “No ma’am,” I would answer indignantly. “I’m from Philly.”
Philadelphia is not New York. It is not LA. It is not London, Europe, or Tel Aviv. Any map will confirm that, but, because dance is so often influenced by the community and culture in which it is produced, an examination of the dances from this dance community will reveal subtle, but noticeable similarities in form, movement vocabulary, and/or texture that further prove this point. Even though Philadelphia has a fairly diverse collection of dance companies and artists, there are certain qualitative characteristics that make a “Philly dancer” identifiable. Choreographers and dancers from the area, whether consciously or unconsciously I can’t always tell, seem to seek to protect their identity as Philadelphians and keep those qualities distinguished from those from other dance meccas. But, by definition, separation requires solitude. This can make dance a lonely business and isolation just another necessary problem in the life of a dancer.
While creating the Philadelphia dance brand does have its benefits, I wonder if such a practice force us to lose sight of our place within and connection to the larger community, not only as dancers, but as human beings. Does our attempt to become identifiable artists cause us to forget that we chose to dance before we ever thought to categorize? If so, how do we go about reigniting that connection?
International Day has grown into a weeklong celebration of dance that commences on April 22 and finishes on April 29, the birthday of ballet master and author, Jean-George Noverre. It encourages dance companies all over the world to host performances and classes in public spaces. According to the International Dance Council, the intent of International Dance Day is to “revel in the universality of the art form, to cross all political, cultural, ethnic barriers and bring people together with the common language of dance.” Last year’s event boasts of Dance Day festivals in over 77 countries.
As a part of an initiative by 954 Movement Collective, under the direction of Keila Cordova, on Sunday, April 26, 2015, from 12:00 – 3:00 at the Piazza at Schmidt’s in Northern Liberties, Philadelphia will facilitate World Dance Day. This free event features performances by Illstyles and Peace Productions, Dancing Classrooms Allstars, Aloha Style on the Mainline, ContempraDANCE Theatre Company, Lalitha Dance Troupe and many more. Additionally, there will be several 20 minutes dance class taught in a variety of dance styles including yoga, rhumba, salsa, hip hop, and belly dance open to all interests and skill levels.
In his Dance Day speech, Barcelona-based choreographer, Israel Galván compares dancers to conductors, of energy. “a lash of Savion Glover makes Mikhail Baryshnikov turn. At that moment, Kazuo Ono stays still and triggers a certain electricity in María Muñoz, who thinks about Vonrad Veidt and forces Akram Khan to cause an earthquake in his dressing room; they move their rattles and the floor becomes covered with the tired drops of their sweat.” What thunderous moments will be triggered in Philadelphia as a result of the dances from someone on the other side of the world? What impact will our gathering have? It is difficult to guess, even harder to predict, but well worth taking the time to join a community of people who are eager to find out.
World Dance Day will take place on Sunday, April 26, 2015, from 12:00 – 3:00 at the Piazza at Schmidt’s (1001 N 2nd St, Philadelphia, Pennsylvania 19123). Performances will take place at 12:00 and 2:00. Teaching sessions will occur at 1:05PM, 1:25PM and 1:45PM. More information can be found at: http://melao3.wix.com/wdd2015