The party started pre-show. First in a lively workshop that invited anyone to join in and learn a variety of dance styles from professional dance artists, and continuing with some audience members dancing freely among the chairs lining Garibaldi Plaza in Washington Square Park, waiting for the evening performance to start.
“People need to dance,” said Naomi Goldberg Haas, founder and artistic director of Dances for a Variable Population (DVP), the multi-generational dance company she started in 2005 after many years as a professional ballet dancer and choreographer.
This need to dance, Goldberg Haas said, became especially evident around the time she was receiving her MFA from Tisch Dance at NYU and teaching a class at the former Coles Sports Center at the school. “The need was so strong ... my first class tripled in size” in a very short time, she said.
This made her realize that dancing was for everyone – of all abilities, ages and backgrounds – and that anyone who wants to, could be involved in dancing in some way.
“I’ve been dancing all my life, this was another way to keep dancing and also to support the community,” she said of the successful organization that now hosts regular dance performances in many of New York City’s most well-known spaces such as Times Square, Hudson River Park, and Governors Island. The programs and classes are for everyone, but with a special focus on older adults to stay engaged in physical activity and creativity through movement.
“We’re making people happier,” Goldberg Haas beamed, looking around as music, conversation – and more impromptu group dancing – took over the small plaza area.
It was certainly a happy atmosphere at the recent Saturday evening event in bustling Washington Square Park where the crowd quickly filled to standing room only at the start of the “Revival 6” dance performances.
In addition to Goldberg Haas, DVP choreographers include dancers who have performed with companies such as Martha Graham, Ballet Hispanico and Alvin Ailey early in their careers.
When the actual show started, the performances ranged from invigorating clap-along quick foot movements to soulful sways, African drum beats leading dancers clad in white, and various mixes of modern dance – a lot of smiling, moving, energized seniors in motion – a few seated on chairs set up on the stage, but still participating.
Their next big performance is September 24 at the Yolande Garcia Park in the Bronx at 4pm. All year long, however, there are free classes throughout the city for senior New Yorkers who like to move, with another fun event for audiences to enjoy – and participate in - never far behind.
You can find out all that Dances for a Variable Population has to offer at dvpnyc.org.