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Yesterday afternoon, hundreds of New Yorkers took to Fifth Avenue and participated in the first annual Dance Parade. From whirling dervishes to salsa dancers, from break dancers to hula hoopers, not even the rain could stop the two-hour celebration that started near Herald Square and ended in Wasington Square Park. Here's a brief description from the organizers about the parade's vision:

To honor Dance's historical roots:
New York has never celebrated the forms of dance that it has birthed until now: Voguing, Jazz, the Jitterbug, Punk, Gothic--even Salsa was birthed in the Cuban Communities in this great city. And it is now time for Dance. New York has enjoyed the last two years of a September Art Parade and in May 2007, we can finally honor Dance in a similar fashion.

To unite in respecting Dance's diversity:
Dance is vital in healthy societies, helping people to communicate and affirm individual and collective identity. Dance Parade is a multi-cultural, multi-generational expression of the joy and value of these various forms of expression. It will foster cross-pollination of dance forms as it introduces audiences to novel styles and beats: teenagers to tango, clubbers to square-dancing, and seniors to hip-hop.

To legitimize Dance as a communicative, social form of expression:
In the 19th century, ballroom dancing was deemed devil's work. In the 1920's, New York City enacted the Cabaret Law to stem interracial dancing from Harlem Jazz Clubs. The 1930's had Nazi Germany quashing Swing Dancing because it was considered anarchistic. And just last year, a State Supreme Court ruled that unlike music, theater and painting, dance is not a constitutionally protected form of expression. In contrast, Dance Parade will highlight the diversity found in its many forms and showcase dance's immense cultural and communicative importance.

Many consider the city's cabaret laws, which only allow certain businesses to permit dancing, to be ridiculous. The NY Times caught a dancing civil rights attorney Norman Siegel at the parade; Siegel, who is one of the lawyers involved with a lawsuit against the city, said, "Dancing is expressive activity, and the government should not be regulating or prohibiting our right to dance."

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The Times also got this quote from a woman, Marydale Abernathy, visiting with her family from Maine: "We happened upon it, and it’s just blowing my mind. I’m from Maine, and I’m bringing my 7-year-old daughter to see the culture of New York City, and this is the feeling I came for, totally. There’s wheelchair dancers. How cool is that?”

Here are awesome Flickr photo sets from: Boss Tweed, dietrich, webchango and photobymatt.

Top photograph by dietrich on Flickr; bottom photograph by photobymatt on Flickr