Imagine yourself doing a dance on a street corner. You are with a group of performers, maybe about thirty people of all ages and backgrounds, and you’re making your way up College Avenue in Berkeley. You’re all moving as you head north, slipping in and out of doorways and over fire hydrants. When you reach Ashby Avenue, you split up and take places on each of the four corners, spreading out next to parked cars and pedestrians bustling in the bright midday sun. Some of the dancers are standing on pillars; others swing around signs.
At a prescribed time, everyone freezes in place. The group looks like an incredible sculpture garden for a few seconds; now everyone begins to dance wildly, encouraging the whole street to join in with a global dance, timed to that exact moment. A few people passing by join in with the activity; others react with smiles or some have bewildered stares. As the group gyrates to an internal rhythm, and you all realize that you’re a part of a world-wide “dance anywhere” experience.
“dance anywhere” is the creation of Berkeley visual artist and dancer Beth Fein. It’s an annual conceptual performance that takes place on the first Friday of National Dance Week. Geographically a global work, “dance anywhere” is an open invitation for everyone to stop and dance wherever they are at noon (Pacific Daylight Time) on April 25, 2008, knowing that dances are happening at the very same moment in other cities around the world and across the United States. Organized over the Internet and spread by word of mouth, the event is now in its fourth year and growing.
A number of professional dancers and choreographers have had memorable experiences participating in “dance anywhere.” “Performing spontaneously in a public space has helped me redefine what it means to relate to an audience. It reminded me of why I dance and what it is about movement that inspires and ignites.” Rebecca Johnson, describing the value of her experience. “Seeing people respond with their faces and bodies brought home to me that dance is a universal language; not a lexicon of the studio and the stage, but a vehicle for expression for all of us to experience.”
Aileen Kim, who participated in “dance anywhere” for the past three years adds that, “People on the streets can be involved as much as they want to be, on their way to work or home.”
Local schoolchildren have also joined the performance. Dylan Moore, who is currently a fourteen-year-old student at Alameda Community Learning Center, told his school about “dance anywhere.” “The Biology teacher announced to our class, ‘the whole world is dancing! Stop writing and dance!’”
Frank Shawl, Co-Director of the Shawl-Anderson Dance Center in Berkeley, remarked that it “has certainly become a ‘looked forward to’ annual event. It not only brings the dance community and its supporters together in a most spirited and playful way, but gets such positive response from all who witness it. What better way to promote attention to dance?”
Fein explains that the concept for dance anywhere is derived from the philosophy that art and dance are an integral part of our daily lives. “Art does not need to be in a gallery or museum, and dance does not need to be on a stage,” she says. For Fein, “dance anywhere” is about the transformation of familiar and ordinary locations, it spills dance and art onto the common ground on which we all tread. The roles of artist and spectator are blurred together for a short time as dance anywhere combines their actions into one event. The intent is to bring everyone’s awareness to the space in which they physically exist (the street, the office, the library, the grocery store, park). As a way to capture these moments, all of the participants are encouraged to take photographs and video of the public space before the dancing begins and again with the performance.
As conceptual art, Fein conceived “dance anywhere” on the premise of a simple set of rules: an open invitation to stop what you are doing, dance, and take a photo or video—anywhere—on the specified date and time. What dance occurs is open and not confined by any restrictions. It does include a component of going beyond the elusive and momentary performance, integrating video, photo and visual art components with dance in the total concept of the work.
Images from “dance anywhere” are the basis of other artwork by Fein, who is also an accomplished visual artist. Each year she distills the photographic images and transforms them into intaglio etchings, collage, and large-scale digital prints and video. A selection of the artwork is displayed on the website. The new images become inspiration for future works of art, enlarging the creative cycle.
Fein’s intention is that “dance anywhere” is about a larger dance community than just those we associate with on a daily basis in class or at rehearsal. It includes friends and colleagues, known and unknown, local and global. It is about dance as community and creating public art together.
The website is designed to promote and support the widest possible participation. It will once again be part of Bay Area National Dance Week and will help kick off the ten days of free dance all over the Bay Area. “dance anywhere” is open to anyone who chooses to join in.
Learn more about “dance anywhere” at danceanywhere.org, where you can see pictures of previous years’ events, learn how to get involved, and see who else is dancing anywhere.