National Dance Day Event at Kennedy Center Promulgates Physical Fitness, Healthy Lifestyle

Bhangra Dance is huge attraction at annual NDD celebration

By Geeta Goindi

Washington, DC, July 30, 2016 – The fourth edition of the National Dance Day (NDD) celebration at the prestigious John F. Kennedy Center for the Performing Arts drew a diverse crowd enthralled by a variety of high-caliber performances reflecting myriad cultures and traditions. The underlying goal was to embrace physical fitness and healthy exercise for a lifetime!

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Scenes from the 2016 National Dance Day at the Kennedy Center in Washington. Among the distinguished speakers was Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (Democrat-DC), seated front left. At right are artistes of DC Bhangra Crew performing at the celebration

Among the distinguished speakers were: Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton (Democrat-DC); Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move!’ campaign to keep kids healthy, and senior White House Policy Advisor for Nutrition; and Amy Fitterer, Executive Director of Dance/USA.

National Dance Day catapulted to the spotlight in 2010 when Congresswoman Norton, an avid proponent of healthy lifestyles, introduced a congressional resolution declaring the last Saturday in July to be the country’s official NDD. She has been co-hosting the annual celebration for seven years now which began on the National Mall and moved to the Kennedy Center in 2013.

“Celebrating National Dance Day here in the nation’s capital has revealed how many DC residents like me, love to dance”, she said. “The annual celebration has brought people from all parts of the city to the Kennedy Center to appreciate dance not only as a great way to have fun and express yourself, but to live a healthy lifestyle by staying active doing something you love”.

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Debra Eschmeyer, Executive Director of First Lady Michelle Obama’s ‘Let’s Move’ initiative, is seen at left addressing the crowd at the National Dance Day celebration at the Kennedy Center. At right is Amy Fitterer, Executive Director of Dance/USA

Conveying greetings on behalf of the First Lady, Eschmeyer told the crowd, “We are just so grateful for this incredible event celebrating the fun of movement”. About the ‘Let’s Move!’ initiative, she said, “We work really hard to increase physical activity and make it easier to raise a healthier generation”.

The First Lady’s love for dance is well known. “We’re big fans of dance and movement”, Eschmeyer emphasized.

It’s interesting to note that before championing the First Lady’s signature campaign, Eschmeyer was a farmer. She owns a farm in western Ohio proximate to the dairy farm where she grew up. Health and nutrition are part of her being!

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The diverse, dance-happy crowd at the 2016 National Dance Day celebration held at the Kennedy Center in Washington

About the Kennedy Center NDD event, this year it was held outdoors on the North Plaza. It was a scorching hot day, alleviated partly by showers in the early afternoon. The rain held off long enough for a fun-filled day; evening activities, including ‘Dancing Under the Stars’, were canceled on account of area-wide thunderstorms.

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Artistes of DC Bhangra Crew with a member of the O’Neill James School of Irish Dance at the Kennedy Center

Indian dance was a huge attraction – gifted artistes of DC Bhangra Crew (DCBC) regaled the dance-happy crowd with their energy-packed performance eliciting among the loudest cheers! The talented dancers were Faryal Bhatt, Megha Kaushik, Riya Pandeti, Alexandra Peterson, Shalini Ray and Maya Thakkar.

DCBC is an all-female Bhangra dance team which was formed by students of the George Washington University in 2008. Since then, it has expanded to include young ladies from all across the Washington metropolitan area “who seek to explore the rich and vibrant culture of Punjab through the lens of performing arts”.

The Kennedy Center definitely attracts the finest talent! The performances were myriad by: Alex Wong who led the Official 2016 National Dance Day Routine; Joy of Motion Dance Center; Dance Place Step Team; DEA Youth Dance Program Partner (hip hop); O’Neill James School of Irish Dance; Latin Dance Class with Katherine Kinnunen; Dance Institute of Washington (ballet and hip hop crossover); Jazz Class with Helen Hayes; and Native Pride Dancers, among others.

A highlight of the event was a Dance for Parkinson’s Class, led by Lucy Bowen McCauley, to mitigate the effects of the debilitating disease. Lucy founded the Arlington-based contemporary dance company, Bowen McCauley Dance, in 1996 to educate, entertain and inspire the community by making contemporary dance accessible to all through performances and outreach activities. Among the community outreach programs are ‘Dance for PD’ which offers free dance classes to people with Parkinson’s Disease and their care partners, and 10-15 school residencies per season.

On stage at the Kennedy Center, Fitterer declared, “One of the great things about dance is that it works for everybody. It doesn’t matter how old or young you are, it doesn’t matter where you’re from – We all can move together”!

She noted, there are manifold studies which “prove that dance not only has an impact on our emotions, our ability to work together, it also has an impact on our brain. There are amazing neuroscience studies out there that prove dance helps us think better. It helps us be a better person”, she said.

“So, no matter what kind of dance you do, any style, whether you take classes or just social dance — keep on dancing”, Fitterer implored the crowd.

About Dance/USA, she informed the gathering that it is the national service organization for professional dance. She encouraged working professionals or those who would like to get involved in the professional industry to visit the web-site at http://www.danceusa.org

“We advocate for dance on Capitol Hill”, she said. “We do research on the industry. We track jobs and auditions all across the country. Our members are the dance companies, choreographers and artists that are working in dance today”.

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A glimpse of the dance-happy crowd at the Kennedy Center on National Dance Day 2016
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A cross-section of the diverse, dance-happy crowd at the Kennedy Center on National Dance Day 2016
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The beautiful Circle of Friendship formed on National Dance Day 2016 at the Kennedy Center in Washington

National Dance Day event at Kennedy Center highlights physical fitness, healthy lifestyle

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