Dancing or moving your body – however that may look – releases endorphins, brain chemicals that promote happiness and satisfaction. Combining that euphoric state of body and mind with music and artistry can lend meaning to culture and build relationships and community.
For many, dance is not just a hobby – it is a way of life and a profession.
To promote the art and variety of dance and showcase local talent in a professional setting, the dance-focused nonprofit San Antonio Dance Umbrella (SADU) is bringing San Antonio Dances back to the stage of the Watson Fine Arts Center at St. Philip’s College on June 24 at 7:30 p.m.
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“There are so many different reasons that people dance, whether it’s recreational or professional,” SADU Board President Brittany Lopez said. “Our goal is to provide opportunities for people to grow, teach, and share their experiences. We want dancers to feel like they have a place here in San Antonio. ”
In 1992, the City’s Department of Cultural Affairs tasked a group of dancers with bringing a measure of cohesion and organization to the burgeoning local dance community. Thus, SADU was born, and it has been at the forefront of education and outreach ever since.
Once a staple in SADU’s calendar of events, San Antonio Dances is making a comeback after taking a hiatus to restructure.
“This event has taken on many different forms over the years,” Lopez said. “This year’s event will showcase more than 12 different artists and groups, with styles ranging from hip hop to jazz to belly dancing.”
A dancer and dance educator at Northwest Vista College, Lopez is most excited for SA Dances’ first artist-in-residence to participate in the June 24 showcase. Felicia McBride is a professional dancer and teacher who worked with a long list of dance companies worldwide, performing with renowned organizations such as Les Grands Ballet Canadiens in Montreal, Hubbard Street Dance in Chicago, and ARCOS Dance in Austin.
McBride, who moved to San Antonio a year ago, will perform at SA Dances, but her involvement with SADU also is tied to the organization’s Moving Arts Project, an informal platform for dancers to receive feedback on their performances. McBride has been attending the monthly events since January, so regular participants got to “travel with her on her choreographic journey and see how she edits her work,” Lopez said.
“[The Moving Arts Project] was a way to generate material,” McBride said. “I chose five local dancers [with the] overall goal of creating a piece which will premiere at SA Dances. The dancers were an important part of the process – I was teaching them, but they were also helping me filter through my ideas.”
Another unique aspect is McBride’s collaboration with her husband, Jazz, TX drummer Brandon Guerra. McBride and her Moving Arts troupe will perform to Guerra’s original compositions, thus fueling the convergence of different local arts scenes.
Both established and up-and-coming dance organizations will take the stage at SA Dances and express their culture and emotions through their chosen art form. Lopez and McBride agree that San Antonio’s dance community is small, but hard-working and multifaceted. More work must be done to build bridges, cohesion, and collaboration, Lopez said, but the community’s current state inspires much confidence in future progress.
“Some of the dancers are still in their teens,” Lopez said. “Independent artists [are] emerging, and there are organizations that have been around for a while, but maybe aren’t that well-known.”
Having traveled all over the country and to Europe to perform, McBride has a broader perspective in assessing the state of San Antonio’s dance scene.
“The community is definitely very passionate,” she said. “[There is a] sense of support, teamwork, and people trying to push it further. People love dancing just to dance,” but making a sustainable career out of performing remains difficult, she said.
As a nonprofit, SADU is committed to bringing dance into the everyday lives of San Antonians through growth and preservation, so it can “remain a vital part of our community,” its website states.
Pursuing that bigger picture, SADU is an official partner for San Antonio’s Tricentennial, which kicks off on New Year’s Eve 2017. The 2018 edition of SA Dances will be listed on SA 300’s official program, but it will be different – “more representational of local culture” – than in years past.
“We are going to tie in the history of San Antonio and think of it through the lens of a historical timeline,” Lopez said. “We will be featuring dances by Aztec groups and indigenous culture, showcasing their dance and style, looking into the future, and how we interpret what place dance has in San Antonio.”