The 10th Annual Dance Parade stepped off just above Union Square early yesterday afternoon, as more than 150 different groups and troupes representing a staggering array of cultural traditions and creative styles made their way through the East Village to Tompkins Square Park. The parade lasted well over four hours, and many of the marchers stuck around the park afterwards for the DanceFest part of the celebration.
Founded a decade ago as a sort of protest against New York City's Cabaret Law—which was enacted in the 1920s as a way to restrict interracial dancing in the Jazz clubs of Harlem, and bafflingly remains on the books today (which is why you're legally not allowed from dance in bars, or restaurants, or anywhere else without a cabaret license)—Dance Parade has evolved into less of a political event and more simply a joyous, family-friendly celebration of artistic expression.
That said, multi-culturalism and diversity is certainly promoted and encouraged by the event's organizers. Among the dozens of dance styles (and aesthetics) on display yesterday were Hip Hop, Butoh, Voguing, Funk, Scottish, American Tribal, Irish Step, Electro-Pop, Modern, Techno, Bolivian Pujilay, Traditional Chinese, Indian Baharantanatyam, Jamaican Dancehall, Bellydance, Salsa, Samba, Country and Western, Flagging, Disco, Ballroom, House, Bolivian Tinkus, Bollywood, Modern, and Chinese Waist Drum Dance.
Spectators were pretty thin along much of the route, and many of the 153 groups had only a handful of dancers, so there was rarely that wonderful density of movement, color, humanity, and sound that some of the city's more heavily-attended parades deliver. But still, there was no question that the dancers brought plenty of excitement and happiness to the day.