As a teacher of social dance, it’s very exciting for me to see young people getting into the dance scene. Stanford University is one of the best promoters of social dance in college aged people. Stanford’s dance program is so popular that classes fill within minutes of opening registration.
Dance historian Richard Powers is in a large part responsible for inspiring this passion for dance. In addition to his own excitement and teaching skills, Richard is famous for using contemporary music the kids can relate to. This sends me and my friends running screaming from the room every time Richard is in the DJ booth, but it works for the kids. Despite my personal distaste for Richard’s music choices, I have to admit this is a good strategy. It’s easier to learn to familiar music. Then, after the dance is in your muscle memory, you develop an appreciation for the music that really fits the dance.
This works the other way around as well. When I was in a performance troupe, our choreographer, the amazing Steven Mitchell, gave us a routine to a hip hop song. Not my favorite music by a long shot, but the routine was so well choreographed and so much fun to do that I learned to appreciate the music. I still like that song even though I don’t enjoy rap music in general.
I live in Oakland, about an hour drive from Stanford, and I see Stanford students at our local Gaskells dances. The Gaskell Ball is a Victorian Dance that takes place every other month in a beautifully renovated art deco building in Oakland. It’s a costume ball that people really get into, so it’s fun to go even if you’re not a dancer, just to look at the Victorian formal attire. The students look absolutely stunning and really contribute to the feeling of stepping back in time.
Any dance scene that no longer appeals to young people is in danger of dying. The most fun to my mind are scenes that include a wide age range. My dance friends range in age from teens to people in their nineties. When we’re together, I forget that we’re not in the same generation. When I once mentioned at lunch that I first met Frankie Manning at an event to celebrate his 80th birthday, I turned to a friend and asked if she was there. “No,” she said. “I missed that one because I was like twelve at the time.” The fun is that it is so easy to forget age differences when we share a common passion!
By LaurieAnn Lepoff
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