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Love of the dance floor: 10 years of inspireDANCE

February 13, 2020
dance class with one dancer doing a demonstration in the center of a studio.Students demonstrate "Capoeira: Brazilian Art Movement" at a end of the year showcase in Spurrier Dance Theater. Todd Russell, center, adjunct dance professor in the Program of Dance and Movement, teaches a master class as part of inspireDANCE. (University of Rochester photo / J. Adam Fenster)

Where can you go to casually watch experts share their dance moves, meet others who share the love of dance, or simply try out new dance? Attend the inspireDANCE Festival—a signature event from the University of Rochester’s Program of Dance and Movement—open to everyone and kicking off on February 19. The festival features nine days of more than 30 master classes, workshops, and performances on the River Campus.

“We’re celebrating our 10th Anniversary and are thrilled to be featuring master classes by the entire Dance and Movement faculty,” says Missy Pfohl Smith, director of the Program of Dance and Movement and Institute for the Performing Arts. The festival offers its participants the opportunity to try out several styles of dance, from West African, ballet, and dances of the Middle East, to yoga, somatics, and Capoeira, a Brazilian martial art dance.

The annual festival continues to feature crowd favorites like the annual inspireJAM competition, in which dancers from across New York state, Canada, and beyond compete in an all-style hip-hop battle. There will be a salsa night with the live band Onclave performing. There are an additional eight guest artists from New York state, New York City, and California as well as performances by students and professionals. “There’s really something for everyone,” says Pfohl Smith.

E. Moncell Durden leads students in dance moves at the University of Southern California. Durden teaches practical and theoretical classes and is an expert in locking, house, hip-hop, authentic jazz, and party dances from 1900 to the present.  He is the inspireDANCE Festival visiting artist and lecturer. (Mary Mallaney photo)

A centerpiece of the festival will be a master class featuring the dances of the 50s, 60s, and 70s, and 80s, in which student and community members who register can learn the Hully Gully, the Twine, or the Madison – all taught by University of Southern California dance professor E. Moncell Durden. Durden, the 2020 festival’s visiting artist and lecturer, is an educator, choreographer, ethnographer, and historian. He will also present a demonstration and lecture titled “Intangible Roots” on Monday, February 21 at Spurrier Dance Theater.

“There’s a richness to social dances,” says Durden, who teaches both movement and lecture courses on dances created out of African diaspora. “They’re not always viewed in the same light as concert dance, but all the dances that hit the stage come from social dances, first,” he says. “So without the minuet or valsas, there would be no ballet.”

Durden demonstrates the connection of traditional African dance to current hip-hop dances with the use of historical footage. “We can connect to what young kids are doing today, who don’t know that the moves are coming from somewhere. And the older adults who don’t know what their dances have turned into.”

“I talk about the Texas Tommy, the Lindy Hop, and where the Charleston or the Soul Train line comes from – and how they’re connected to African traditional dances, and which dance came from what country in Africa,” he says.

About the Festival
The inspireDANCE festival was the creation of Arielle Friedlander ’10, who was a participant in Rochester’s KEY (Kauffman Entrepreneurial Year), program, which provides students with an additional fifth undergraduate year to work on an entrepreneurial business venture.

She shared he idea with the Program of Dance and Movement director Missy Pfohl Smith: to find a way to connect the more than 600 students involved in dance and movement group and classes at the University of Rochester with each other, with the Program of Dance and Movement, and with the larger Rochester-area dance community.

Working together, Friedlander and the Program launched the inaugural inspireDANCE Festival in January 2010.

Tickets are available online or at the Common Market starting on Feb. 10. All inclusive Festival Pass are $18 before February 20 and $25 on/after February 22. Individual Events: $5–10 at the door. (Individual tickets for E. Moncell are $10 for students/general public and would be free with the $18 advance ticket festival pass. The $10 ticket will be sold at the Common Market at Wilson Commons and at the door. Registration for master classes is required after a ticket is purchased.

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Category: The Arts