At parties, there are those who get on the floor and dance, and those who stand on the side and watch. Occasionally, there are those moments when someone in the center extends a hand to a stranger on the side, and invites that stranger into the circle. Bay Area Dance Week is like that extended hand — from the entire Bay Area dance community to everyone outside of it. For ten days, dance companies of all types and sizes will be opening their doors for free events, inviting the community to join them in their fun.
To start off the festivities, Dancers' Group is asking everyone to dance. Every year, it partners with Rhythm & Motion to choreograph a group dance and post an instructional video online so anyone can learn it. (Watch it on BayAreaNDW.org.) Then, on the first day of the festival, thousands gather at San Francisco's Union Square to watch all the participants perform it in unison. In past years, around six hundred people have participated. This year, the kickoff event will take place on April 24 at noon.
Dancers' Group, an organization based in San Francisco that works to support and promote Bay Area dance, has organized Bay Area Dance Week for the past seventeen years. Part of the goal is to remind Bay Area residents that they live in a thriving hub of dance activity (which often goes underappreciated.) "Dance is thriving. It's diverse; it's happening in so many different ways," said Dancers' Group executive director Wayne Hazzard. "You might hear about it more with the bigger companies like San Francisco Ballet or even Bandaloop, who does amazing things on the sides of buildings in Korea and all over the world, but then there's the schools that are in the nooks and crannies ... that might be close to where you live."
For the rest of the events, dance companies and studios simply sign up to host visitors in whatever capacity suits them — as long as it's free. This year, more than four hundred events will take place, including workshops, open houses, and performances. The types of dance cover a wide range as well, including flamenco, hip-hop, and Egyptian belly dancing. The idea is to offer an opportunity for people who might not normally want to pay for a class or performance to try something new.
In terms of East Bay events, there are a few that stand out. Bandaloop, for example, is an aerial dance company that uses rock climbing harnesses to dance horizontally on the sides of buildings. Because they are constantly touring around the world, it's a rare treat to see them perform, but at 1 p.m. on April 26, participants of its Free to Fly workshop will actually get a chance to try out what they do. After an introduction on technique, students of all levels will be able to strap on one of its harnesses and propel off the towering practice wall in its West Oakland studio (1601 18th St.).
On April 27, Axis Dance Company, another internationally recognized group, will hold an open class for people to experience its physically integrated dance style, which beautifully engages able-bodied dancers and physically disabled dancers through choreography. That will take place at 1 p.m. at the Malonga Casquelourd Center for the Arts (1428 Alice St., Oakland).
For those more interested in a chance to sit back and watch, Dance-A-Vision Entertainment is presenting the Oakland Dance Festival at Jack London Square on April 25 from noon–6 p.m. This event alone will bring together thirty dance groups from all around the Bay Area, including those that practice multicultural dance, salsa, hip-hop, ballet, and modern dance. But attendees aren't totally off the hook. In addition to performances, the event will also include a dance party, soul train line, and dance parade. There's no reason not to join in.
April 24–May 3. BayAreaNDW.org