Celebrate diversity through dance with this weekend’s National Dance Week performances

Dancers of all ages are invited to participate in this two-day event. -- photo by Carol Grow Johnk
Dancers of all ages are invited to participate in this two-day event. — photo by Carol Grow Johnk

Iowa dancers are gathering this weekend to celebrate culture and dance from all over the world at InterDance’s 9th annual National Dance Week, April 17 – 18. The event was inspired by International Dance Day (April 29,) which has taken place every April since the early ‘80s.

“Dance for a long time has been considered an underrepresented art,” said Nora Garda, Executive Director at InterDance and co-creator of the festival. She says the holiday’s purpose is to honor people, cultures and types of dance throughout the world.

Whirled Dance Café — featuring world dances inspired by Kahraman Near Eastern, tango and Afro-Caribbean-Indian styles — will kick off the weekend at 7 p.m. on Friday at the Trumpet Blossom Cafe.

On Saturday, attendees can participate in workshops like an Afro-Caribbean-Indian dance workshop, a hip-hop workshop and a late-night salon at various locations in Iowa City. The keynote speaker, Associate Professor of Dance at the University of Iowa, Eloy Barragan, will speak on the art of screendance at Fairgrounds at 11:30 a.m. Those who aren’t inclined to participate can watch free performances by New Territory Dance Company, Travelers Dance, Dream Divas, City Ballet of Iowa, Infinity Dance, UI Swing Club, Combined Efforts Theatre and many others.

This year, patrons can expect a bigger event with added venues and shows, including world dance at Trumpet Blossom, a rhythm workshop at Fair Grounds Café, Irish dance at Uptown Bill’s or ballet and swing dance at the Iowa City Recreation Center. Garda says organizers made it a point to include many types of dance within walking distance.

The Iowa Dance Network works closely with the festival and helps get dancer participants involved. Dancers from out of town are provided housing and food from sponsoring organizations and businesses like Oasis and New Pioneer Co-op, among others.

“In 2006 I was in a dance festival in Spain and that is kind of what sparked the idea to do it in Iowa,” said Garda. Even though she says organizing a volunteer-based event can be hard, the joy she sees in the participants and community is worth it. She hopes the event will spread to more locations nationwide.

Iowa City’s National Dance Week events will take place on Friday evening and through Saturday, April 17 – 18. Performances are mostly free, and workshops have a $5 fee. See website for complete schedule.