It's Not Such a Small World After All

April 20, 2011

It was a great weekend for the dance community here in Dallas: Dancers and dance enthusiasts of all ages gathered at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts for the 15th annual Dance For The Planet Festival. The Dance Council of North Texas once again created a forum where participants could take master classes in an array of dance styles, absolutely FREE. And I wasn’t going to let that opportunity pass me by!

With more than 25 styles to choose from (jazz, tap, Afro-modern, mambo, circus aerial silks and belly dancing, just to name a few), picking a class was a challenge. In the end I decided on classic jazz dance with Danny Buraczeski, associate professor of dance at Southern Methodist University, and Horton technique with Melissa M. Young, associate artistic director of Dallas Black Dance Theatre.

“I love dance festivals,” Young says. “For me, Dance Planet 15 is about sharing information and stepping into the unknown. It’s exciting not knowing what level of students you’re going to get and then watching them all open up and become more confident during class.”

Because classes were only 50 minutes, Young gave us an abridged version of her Horton class which included roll down and flat back exercises, balances, lunges and core strengthening. She told us we would use muscles we hadn’t used before–and boy, was she right!

If you wanted a break from classes you could head over to the Montgomery Arts Theater. Saturday morning I sat in on a Q&A session with “So You Thing You Can Dance” alums and Burn The Floor stars Anya Garnis and Pasha Kovalev. We learned a little bit about their childhood and ascent to dance stardom, and then they performed a saucy cha cha to “History Repeating.”

After my afternoon classes I went back to check out some of the performance showcase. They had every style of dance you could possibly imagine, from African dance and Brazilian rhythms to modern, ballet and jazz. I got to watch a sassy character jazz number by Pilates Squared, a sweet mother/daughter lyrical number by Miriam Project, a modern piece by FireWalk Dance and much more.

“Dance Planet is really an investment in the community,” Buraczeski says. “It’s a way for us to share our methods and keep dance alive.” In my eyes, Dance Planet 15 is solid proof that dance is not only alive but thriving here in the Big D.