Legwarmers Optional: New York City’s Third Annual Dance Parade

If you watched Fame as a kid and dreamed of dancing your heart out in the streets of New York City, then your moment has arrived. The third annual Dance Parade, which is set for May 16, will feature six thousand dancers boogieing, pirouetting and shimmying their way down Broadway, and spectators are invited to join in. The event was founded three years ago as a way to celebrate the diversity of dance, as well as to call attention to New York City’s archaic cabaret law, which prohibits dancing in nightclubs and bars without a license and which has remained largely unchanged since its enactment in 1926. But the founders emphasize that their organization is not politically motivated, and that the parade is not a protest but rather a celebration of the joy of movement.

The parade kicks off at 1 p.m. near 28th and Broadway and winds up at Tompkins Square Park with free performances, lessons and a dance party until 7 p.m. After the jump, we catch up with co-executive director Yana Landowne to get the scoop on this year’s event.

Flavorpill: Tell us a little bit about how Dance Parade got started.

Yana Landowne: The official founder is Greg Miller, and it was his idea. It came out of Metropolis in Motion, a group that was formed to protest the cabaret laws in New York City. But that is a political organization and the parade is not. The parade is not officially in protest of the cabaret laws, although it is delightful that it draws attention to them. We’re more of a civic organization that is celebrating the diversity of dance in New York City. It came out of a desire to celebrate dance as an art form.

FP: What kind of response have you gotten in the past couple of years?

YL: One thing I love is being in the parade and inspiring the audience to dance. You’ve got people on both sides of the parade dancing, and people who don’t consider themselves dancers let themselves engage in that. We all get so set in not using our bodies to their fullest potential, and something like this is so healthy and so life-affirming. It’s incredible to see that many people that happy.

FP: What is it about dance that makes people so happy?

YL: I think it’s about coming together and celebrating what we have, and it doesn’t cost money. Maybe dance is resurging because we’re missing that kind of connection in our daily lives. There’s so much that’s depressing out there, and this is celebratory, something that anybody can do. Being reminded of that inspires people.

FP: What kind of work goes into organizing the parade?

YL: It’s a lot of planning, a lot of decisions to be made. Part of my job has been to make sure people don’t burn out on it. It’s a whole year spent on creating one day, and it’s all volunteer-run. I’d say there’s a core of about twenty to twenty-five who are with us all year. There’s so much energy around it and so much positive support, and it feels like it’s growing each year. When we started, barely any of us had any of the skills that we now have. It’s been beautiful to watch people grow. It’s amazing how much volunteering can change your life.

FP: What are your hopes for the future of Dance Parade?

YL: We’d love to have it get as big as the Halloween Parade, to have it be around for twenty-five years-plus. We want it to get bigger and bigger so that it will remain beyond the strength of twenty crazy dedicated volunteers. Right now the question is, how do we remain viable and positive? How do we take encouragement from our community and continue to grow it in this way?

FP: How can people volunteer?

YL: Visit the site. Right now we have fifty and I’d love for it to be a hundred and fifty. We’ll just take anybody and find out what they want to do and how they want to engage and try to make the best out of every situation. It’s fun, it’s festive. You can see on the website the age range and diversity and of people involved in creating it. One might say it’s a ragtag group but it’s really not. It’s people who are passionate about dance and really want to find a way for it to be recognized for its power.

Photo credit: lardfr1’s flickr