Pros, rookies burn off energy at electric, eclectic dance-athon
SARATOGA SPRINGS Andrew Heffernan danced like a wild man in a neon yellow T-shirt.
In a brightly lighted dance studio Sunday afternoon, he executed perfect windmill air guitar motions in full view of about 80 other dancers.
He’s an engineer, self-professed awkward party attendee and prime example of the power of aerobic dance.
Energetic locals gathered at the National Museum of Dance in Saratoga Springs on Sunday to celebrate National Dance Day with a two-hour dance-athon.
“It really is a national holiday,” said museum Program Coordinator Sue Edwards. “Congress passed it back in 2010. They don’t get a lot done, but they passed this right through.”
The holiday, she said, focuses on getting people off the couch, off the iPad and onto the dance floor for some movement.
“People are out dancing on the smallest parking lot in North Dakota to the Kennedy Center,” she said.
Actually, they were out dancing on Saturday. The museum couldn’t celebrate on the holiday itself because of a huge wedding at the facility. So while the rest of the country nursed sore legs, Saratoga locals danced away.
Considering the exercise mission of the day, volunteer instructors chose aerobic dance styles. Zumba, obviously, was on the docket, but also Bollywood and something called Bokwa, which is Heffernan’s style of choice.
“It’s my soulmate workout,” he said. “I’ve tried jogging and lifting and all that. This is the only thing I can stick with.”
Man of numbers
Heffernan is a man of numbers and computer screens and desk chairs.
“I wasn’t a guy that liked to dance at parties,” he said. “Never.”
Bokwa allows him, he said, to shake off the internal checks and balances usually halting flamboyant movement in adult males.
“It totally gets rid of white-man syndrome,” said Alison Mewer Cowan. She teaches Bokwa and Zumba and various styles across the region, including a session at Sunday’s event. She said Bokwa is the best dance routine for guys.
“It’s just a few steps you do over and over and then you just add stuff,” she said. “It’s just play time.”
Perhaps that simple stompy atmosphere formed the event’s success. This year roughly 80 people showed up — 20 more than last year.
“And we even have some guys here,” Edwards said. “We have like four guys. Last year, we didn’t have even one.”
People moved easily through what Edwards described as ethnic-rooted workout dance moves, sweating profusely a few minutes in. Very few looked lost.
One woman, Sandi Shapiro, even executed a rather impressive supermom move, making graceful kicks while holding a 4-year-old in one arm.
“You have to use your hip as a shelf,” she said when asked about her technique.
Unlike the crowd, Shapiro spent decades on the competitive ballroom and Latin dance scene. With all her experience, the Bokwa or Zumba or Bollywood moves seemed to her a bit simplistic.
“Those who can’t dance Zumba” she said.
But she was still there with two kids in tow.
“It’s a good transition into formal dance,” she said. “And it’s important for kids to start young, even if it’s just in your arms.”
With the success of this year’s event, Edwards hopes to move outdoors next year to Congress Park.
“I’d like to get it out among people,” she said.
All proceeds from the event, roughly $400 from ticket sales, will go to a scholarship program at the museum, funding dance class tuition for disadvantaged local children.