When the Dance Plus Festival was launched at Skidmore College 18 years ago, the idea was to bring people of all ages and backgrounds together.
Anyone can dance, said Mary DiSanto-Rose, Skidmore’s dance department chair.
That philosophy still guides the Dance Plus Festival, which will be held this year on Saturday, March 1. The festival features a full day of dance classes open to the community. Classes will be held in athletic building on the Skidmore campus in Saratoga Springs from 10 a.m. to 5:15 p.m.
DiSanto-Rose said the crowd usually numbers about 200, and true to the festival’s mission, it includes everyone from children to senior citizens.
`Some years we had kids as young as preschool,` DiSanto-Rose said. `Parents and grandparents will come out with the kids.`
There are dance classes suited for all ages. Hip-hop and modern dancing is geared to those ages 7 to 12 and promises `popping, locking, rhythm and some funk.` Isadora Duncan dances, another class for 7- to 12-year-olds, aims to help youngsters develop grace and creativity. They’re encouraged to bring poetry, music and other ideas that the class can dance to.
Meanwhile, anyone 12 and older can try out classes such as salsa, where they can learn basic footwork and positions; jazz, an `upbeat` class; and Zumba, which combines Latin and international music in a `dynamic, exciting, effective workout.` There are also intermediate classes for fit, experienced dancers; those offerings include modern/contemporary dance as well as precision dance, which will be taught by former Rockette Deanna Ford.
DiSanto-Rose has taught classes in the past, but this year she’ll leave the instruction to Ford and a host of other teachers who have long and varied dance backgrounds. Peter Naumann, who will lead a beginner ballet class and a ballet master class, spent 26 years performing with the New York City Ballet and now co-directs the New Paltz School of Ballet and New Paltz Ballet Theater. Carla Domenico-Wasbes, who will teach hip-hop choreography, is the dance team director for the Albany Patroons basketball team’s dance squad and teachers hip-hop dance at Union College. Adam Witt, one of the instructors for the West African dance class, studied the drums in West Africa and the Caribbean.
Witt’s class, which he will teach with Anna Witt, is advertised as being suitable for `ages 7 to 97,` as is old-time barn dancing, where participants will learn square dances and singing games. DiSanto-Rose said families often sign up for these classes together and have a great time.
And while mixing dancers of all abilities can cause some frustration, with the beginners saying that the classes are too hard and more advanced dancers wanting a bigger challenge, DiSanto-Rose said the festival `tries to find that balance.`
For the most part, she said, dancers help one another out, with the experienced students offering tips and encouragement to the newcomers.
For dance students, seeing dancers of all different abilities trying new classes is a real lift, DiSanto-Rose said.
`They’re energized to see the diversity in their studios,` she said.
The community members who take part, meanwhile, give the festival high marks for the variety of classes and the chance to sample different dances in a one-day session.
`It has been very positive,` DiSanto-Rose said.
Full day tickets are $45 at the door. An individual class can be taken for $15, two classes for $25. Children’s classes are $8 per class at the door. Members of Dance Alliance, an organization of choreographers, dancers, teachers and advocates of dance that sponsors the event, get a $5 discount on full day tickets, as do students and seniors.
For a schedule of the day’s classes, visit www.dancealliance.org.“