It looks like they're dancing underwater. They're not, of course, because this is the monthly Saturday Night Boogie, and their feet are skimming the polished hardwood floor at Artspace, but it sure looks like some kind of airborne water ballet. Arms spiral upward, hips are swaying, eyes close. The sounds of Loop Guru envelop the 30 dancers as they spin, leap, shuffle and swim.
People are loving this. Hands beckon you onto the dance floor. "C'mon," their wordless gestures seem to say. "The water's fine."
It sure is. Saturday Night Boogie is the newest venue for Richmond dance enthusiasts, and it's cool, sweet fun. The brainchild of a small group of area dance lovers known as the New Movers and Shakers Group, this once-a-month, three-hour, Saturday-night dance jam session is patterned after similar events in Boston, Chapel Hill, N.C., and New York. Its mission is to bring together dancers in a smoke-free, alcohol-free environment of world beat, techno, reggae and hip-hop music. Though you'll see some extraordinary dancers on the floor with a serious understanding of the art form, you'll also see couples traditionally clasped, and free spirits tentatively (or boldly) interpreting their own vision of movement. It's definitely an artsy and sophisticated but approachable bunch.
"We're part of a trend in the dance scene for people who are looking for an alternative to going to a club," says Cheryl Pallant, one of the primary organizers of the event (and also a Style dance critic). "This a place to dance for people who don't want to deal with smoke and alcohol. It's for people who just want to come to dance not to meet a potential mate."
Steven Summerville agrees. Dressed to dance in a white turtleneck and camouflage pants, and supplied with a water-filled 2-liter bottle of Coke, the Richmonder says the Boogie is a "safe place" to dance, where "you don't have to think about people watching you." Summerville admits he's a "bold dancer," and this is one place where he can unleash his moves without being judged.
This is a place for exuberance, for all-out expression in movement. Kevyn Burn, a former Richmonder now living in Staunton, is on the dance floor ... with crutches. Though she recently sprained her ankle, that has not stopped her from dancing. She artfully incorporates one crutch into her moves, as her partner grabs the other and transforms the crutch into a stage prop for his dance.
"Here you can join in anyone's dance and pick up flavors," Burn says. "You have the opportunity to dance with people you might not normally dance with, so your body has the opportunity to explore different movements. It's like a smorgasbord." She smiles. "It's very tasty here."
Kevin Heffernan, trades off with Ululating Mummies percussionist/keyboardist Robbie Kinter as DJ in charge of making the menu spicy. Heffernan plays a handpicked selection of about 50 CDs ranging from Dee Lite, Moby, Augustus Pablo, Massive Attack, Material and Miles Davis, to keep the dancers spinning with fusion, hip-hip and electonica. "I try to introduce marginal music gradually," he says, "by starting off with mainstream music and then gradually easing into it."
Where the spirit leads, the body soon follows. Joriel Foltz, who heard about the Boogie at a yoga and writing workshop hosted by Pallant, fell in love with the first event she attended. She soon became a key organizer of the Boogie, which is gearing up for its sixth encore performance in March. "I've always loved to dance," says Foltz, "though I've never felt all that coordinated. But I was dubbed "most creative dancer" at a slumber party when I was a kid." Foltz's boyfriend, Alex Wood, has attended similar boogies in New York and Cambridge, Mass. "There's a similar feeling here tonight," he says. "These dances bring out the free spirits and New Age community." Wood adds that at some of the "dance free" events, intermissions dubbed "middles" provide opportunities for miniperformances, such as yoga demos, musical solos, or poetry/dance interpretations.
The New Movers and Shakers Group hosts a monthly Saturday Night Boogie at various congenial dance spaces in Richmond. It encourages the young and old, the healthy and the infirm to dance to eclectic music. The smoke-free, alcohol-free environment alone makes dance lovers want to jump for joy. Plus, with very few chairs, there's little opportunity to rest for long. You come to dance.
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