Kennedy Center celebrates National Dance Day with three-day festival

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Dance Day (Part 1)

National Dance Day is usually one day of fun, but this year you can celebrate for three.

The Kennedy Center is hosting an array of events this Thursday, Friday and Saturday.

“National Dance Day is honestly my favorite day of the year every year,” Director of Dance Programming Jane Rabinovitz told WTOP. “We treat it like the kickoff of the dance season. I’ll have my T-shirt and sneakers on. I hope to see everyone out and dance with you all.”

Founded in 2010 by American Dance Movement and Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton, the 12th annual event returns to in-person events after last year’s virtual version.

It all kicks off Thursday evening as soon as you get off from work.

“Starting with two DJs spinning dances tunes … on the REACH plaza,” Rabinovitz said. “When the sun goes down, we’ll start screening three short films. Two are from The Washington Ballet [and] the world premiere of the film ‘Rhythm is our Business.’ … It’s a tap-dance film that explores the stories of the founding women of American tap-dance.”

The second day features more fun events on Friday evening.

“We’ll have DJ Rita Burns spinning,” Rabinovitz said. “Starting at six, we have a big main stage production on the REACH plaza stage … with a series of acts local to the DMV. We’ve got young perfumers with Paula Brown Ballerina Project, students from Washington School of Ballet and some adult performers from SoundXpressed Dance Company.”

You’ll also have a chance to learn the official National Dance Day routine.

“This year, we’ll have Bailey Muñoz, a previous winner from ‘So You Think You Can Dance,'” Rabinovitz said. “So, after you’ve watched some amazing performers, we really expect everyone to get up on their feet and join us to learn that routine.”

It all builds to an all-day celebration on Saturday to mark National Dance Day.

“Be sure to wear sneakers and comfy clothes that you can sweat in,” Rabinovitz said. “We start with a family yoga class that’s meant for parents and kids to take together at 10 a.m. on the REACH lawn. Then we go straight into four interactive dance classes.”

That includes Cuban dance by D.C. Casineros, Chinese contemporary by Qing Dance Company, African gumboot by Taratibu Youth Association and hip-hop by Culture Shock.

“National Dance Day is all about seeing and experiencing dance for everything that it is, hopefully exposing you to dance forms you’ve never experienced,” Rabinovitz said.

You can also head indoors to see Ben Levine’s interactive art installation LENS.

“You’re viewing dance through different technologies,” Rabinovitz said. “In one space you’re viewing dance through binoculars. In one space you’re having a virtual reality experience. In one space you see projections of dance. Then you use infrared goggles.”

Best of all, the entire three-day festival is free.

“We really believe dance is for everyone,” Rabinovitz said. “You don’t have to have any dance experience. … These performers and experiences are free because we don’t want there to be any barriers. We want everyone to come out to the Kennedy Center, dance with us, watch some amazing dance and catch the bug for why dance is for everyone.”

As always, make sure you follow COVID-19 protocols.

“The vast majority of National Dance Day celebrations will be outside,” Rabinovitz said. “No one will be checking vaccination status outside. If you go inside to use the restroom or get a drink of water, we require masks indoors. If you want to attend LENS indoors, you will need to provide proof of vaccination or a negative PCR test taken within 72 hours.”

WTOP's Jason Fraley previews National Dance Day (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

Jason Fraley

Hailed by The Washington Post for “his savantlike ability to name every Best Picture winner in history," Jason Fraley began at WTOP as Morning Drive Writer in 2008, film critic in 2011 and Entertainment Editor in 2014, providing daily arts coverage on-air and online.

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