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When I was living in New York City during the Giuliani administration, Giuliani started to enforce the cabaret laws that could apply to forbidding dance in other than licensed nightclubs. This meant that any small establishment (many of them wildly creative restaurants or bars with genius DJs playing studiously combined music) could be fined thousands of dollars (repeatedly) for inciting their clientele to respond to the sounds by moving their bodies. This was in the late '90s. An outstanding action group called Reclaim the Streets started having gorilla dance-ins. They would set up their generator and stereo in the middle of the street after calling hundreds/thousands of people to appear out of nowhere and go ape dancing to the euphoric music. Traffic would be at a standstill and New York City magic would build.
Our community turns out in droves for political events; dance events are just as crucial if you imbue them with crucial energy. Think of the capacity for dance to cause global movements. To meet with fellow community members and improvise to music is one of the most ancient and resonant ways to connect. What a great liberty it is to be able to move your body at all, with all of the disadvantage in the world, or better yet what a great privilege it is to live in a society where it is possible to be happy enough to want to dance, or be allowed time to dance.
Dance is the mother tongue, the universal language. Why should we not then strive for fluency, for physical as well as mental grace? If we are in a recession, one that is being likened to the Great Depression, why don't we embrace dance the way it was embraced then, when it was more or less ubiquitous to shift into a non-verbal musical mode when socializing?
Think before you go to a political event that requires you to sit in a chair motionless and listen passively or talk and think cerebrally, that it could be just as revolutionary to go out to dance. To interact with others to music and defy your limitations, your preconceptions about your neighbors and the sedentary and physically contrived state we live our modern lives in. If nothing else, get on the dance floor to recover from having to drive yourself as a way of life!
Being a performance artist and having grown up a professional dancer, I have made it my project for the last three years to scavenge the countryside for dance excellence. It can be very slim pickins in a state as sparsely populated and rural as Vermont. But, in spite of this, I have discovered some very happening scenes. If you want to improve your dance here, or to have hard-core dance thrills, you may have to travel on a regular basis.
Finding a local class in the Mad River Valley is possible. There have also been efforts to establish dance nights, like the salsa night that was on Wednesdays at Timbers, which I was never able to go to but heard was great.
There is a thriving tango scene in Vermont -- event listings can be found at queencitytango.com. Last summer, I went to a tango weekend called Moonlight in Vermont at the Brandon Inn. There were many men and women there of varying ages (it was a sold out event). In general, it was an attractive, skilled crowd. I took a private 30-minute lesson and danced at their Saturday night milonga (tango dance party).
When I went to the 2005 Stowe Tango Festival, I learned there was a man named Joe Fish who had built a private tango hall (Palais de Glace) on his property. Who would a thunk? It wasn't until 2007 that I made it there. Mr. Fish throws a milonga one Sunday a month and offers class, practice and dinner, all for about $20. He often invites Pablo Navarro and Tito Castro to play live tango music (they are very well respected in the tango scene in New York City). Fish's scene in Stowe has integrity as well as generosity of spirit. It is a must for serious partner dancers in Vermont.
Last summer, in the Warren Town Hall, I attended a red-hot Senegalese African dance workshop with Caro Diallo at the Warren Town Hall (a gorgeous dance space). There must have been 30 people there, many of them had studied with Diallo in Senegal and already knew the combinations. He worked us for three hours; it was grueling but one of the best classes I have been to. It was organized by a woman named Betsy from Bristol.
There is an African dance class that takes place in Middlesex on Mondays, which I haven't been able to catch. One Studio, in Waterbury, was offering an African class on Sundays with Jordan Mensah of Ghana, which was unfortunately cancelled. I attended several times and found Jordan to be first rate. The cancellation was tough to take!
On Monday (10:30 a.m. to noon) and Saturday (10 to 11:30 a.m.) Jazz/Funk is offered at the Sugarbush Health and Racquet Club. The class is 90 minutes and is for all ages and levels. The studio at SHARC is outstanding -- as good or better than many dance spaces in New York. The class is taught by a New York City professional (yours truly) and explores jazz and funk traditions with music by such artists as Betty Davis, Miles Davis, Django Reinhardt, Stan Getz, Herbie Hancock, Parliament, WAR, Ohio Players, Jimmy Smith and others.
Recently, the company Noche Flamenca was in Burlington at Flynn Center for the Performing Arts. I attended a Flamenco class there, my first. Soledad Barrio (Noche Flamenca's principal) is considered to be one of the world's best flamenco dancers. The only letdown was that there was no guitar accompaniment, no music at all. Otherwise, the class was informative and challenging. Soledad was compassionate, comical and intense and, of course, a stunning dancer.
At the Grange in Montpelier, regular contra dance events are to be found. Live bands are featured. Contra dance is something I had not heard of before coming to Vermont. I am bound for one of their parties, as I am curious what the dance is like and I know I will enjoy myself. When haven't I when I am in a crowd of dancing, ecstatic people? See you on the dance floor...and remember Dudley Moore's line in the film <MI>The Bedsitting Room<D>, "Keep moving, keep moving!"