Body-Moving as Defiance at the Dance Parade

The second annual shindig brings Irish jigs, ballroom twirls, and B-boy stances together

Blame my relatively conservative Midwestern upbringing, but I'm not much of a dancer. I occasionally feel the urge—if I'm at Studio B or Home Sweet Home, or I've had a lot of scotch—but for the most part, I prefer to do my flirting off the floor. My whole family is that way. Relationships have nearly been terminated due to our collective aversion, as in: "I don't think it's going to work out. He really likes to dance." So when Greg Miller, founder and development director of Dance Parade, asks in which part of the parade he should save me a spot, I balk. "But this parade is for you!" he argues. "We want you to get out there and think, 'I feel great when I move!' " Hmm. I feel great when I drink. And occasionally when I abuse prescription drugs. When I dance, I just feel embarrassed.

But for those free from social-anxiety disorder, the second annual New York City Dance Parade floods the streets of Manhattan and Tompkins Square Park with nearly 5,000 dancers this Saturday, in celebration of culture, community, and the art of movement—which you still can't "celebrate" in most of the city's bars and clubs, since the lawsuit regarding the unconstitutionality of the cabaret law was denied its appeal last year. This weekend's parade isn't bogged down in politics, though; it's more concerned with good old-fashioned dance (along with the modern, belly, and B-boy varieties, etc.). But the fete also has a weighty mission: to honor the art's historical roots; to unite in respecting its diversity; to support grass-roots organizations; to legitimize dance as a communicative act, a social form of expression; and to invoke joy and brotherhood.

"We had a number of people last year comment that they hadn't felt a community energy like that in years," explains Miller, who worked in management for Fortune 500 companies for 18 years before pitching it all to found the Dance Parade last year, which he has so far operated from his savings. "And someone suggested to me the other day that we're 'putting the New York back into New York.' "

Beginning at 1 p.m., dance companies and individuals—some 31 genres will be represented—as well as floats, bands, and DJs will head down Broadway from 28th Street to University, cutting over on St. Marks to Tompkins Square Park. ("The parade also reflects the history of dance," its founder explains, noting that it's organized by chronological progression, which means Irish jigs before ballroom dancing, and hip-hop toward the end.) At least one nightclub will be showing its support: Adorned with its signature cherries, the float for Pacha (the 30,000-square-foot venue that recently won Best Superclub at the Club World Awards 2008) will be helmed by Bronx teenagers the Martinez Brothers, those sweet churchgoing boys whose dad turned them onto house to steer them away from hip-hop. At the end of the line, everyone will gather at the park for a dance-festival finale, slated for 4 p.m.

"We'll have well-known people like the Knicks City Dancers, the NBA team's hip-hop group; Miss Dance USA and the U.S. Dance Team; and Luigi, the father of jazz dance, who's our grand marshal," says Miller. "And then also, lots of underground groups like Groove Hoops—they dance with hula hoops." Expect also Energy in the Middle, the roller-skating team featured in the Rapture's video for "Gotta Get Myself Into It"; Circulock, a street-dance circus (no, really); and Mortal Beasts and Deities, a group that performs in elaborate puppet costumes—and on stilts.

Of course, there were a few snags along the way to the event's second year. Last year's route ended under the Memorial Arch in Washington Square Park, but with the current construction there, this year's Dance Parade had to find a new home. After shopping around—"Did you know the fees at Bryant Park start at $100,000?" Miller asked incredulously, adding that they also checked with Hudson River Piers and Foley Square at the Courthouse, among others—they finally settled on the East Village. "We're so excited to lead 5,000 dancers down that very festive street," Miller says of St. Marks Place.

It's not too late to sign up. Individual registration is free; groups pay $100. Visit danceparade.org or call 646-530-8753 for more information.


More trouble in community-board news: Last week, Community Board 6's landmarks and land-use committee heard concerns about Park Slope's Union Hall, home to Michael Showalter and Eugene Mirman's comedy fave Tearing the Veil of Maya, not to mention the Secret Science Club, various literary readings, and frequently good indie-rock shows most days of the week. After a two-hour-plus public hearing regarding the upcoming renewal of the venue's liquor license, the committee voted 6 to 2 (with two abstentions) in favor of a motion to recommend denying that renewal unless the owners take major steps to help with the noise—like stopping the sale of alcohol after midnight. (Didn't Board 6 have its holiday party at Union Hall the year before last?)

Those concerns came mostly from residents of the Union Avenue block on which the club is located, led by community activist Jon Crow; much of the rest of the nabe supports the space. By all accounts, the most vocal opponent was Roberta Lehrner, who complained of the re-emergence of the "prostitutes and gypsies" she helped clean off the street years ago. But it seems possible that the complaints about the live music in the basement portion (which I rarely even hear upstairs, let alone outside) and bouncers letting those damn kids run wild (I've been immediately shushed and corralled into the garden on more than one occasion; the door guys seem pretty on top of it to me) are a bit exaggerated. Stay tuned: The board's advice will be taken into consideration by the State Liquor Authority at its liquor-license renewal meeting on May 31.

 
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