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Dance Flurry: Classes, concerts, traditional steps join techno contra for young dancers

Thursday, February 14, 2013
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Teenage dancers and musicians can look forward to their own events at this weekend’s 26th annual Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs. (Photo courtesy Flurry Festival)
Teenage dancers and musicians can look forward to their own events at this weekend’s 26th annual Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs. (Photo courtesy Flurry Festival)

Teen dancers will have their hands — and feet — full during this weekend’s annual Flurry Festival in Saratoga Springs.

All part of the plan, according to Tamara Flanders.

“We have two dances that are specifically for 21 and under, and then we have a whole lineup of activities that we scheduled with a conscious intention of providing more toward the teen crowd,” said Niskayuna resident Flanders, administrative director for the party that begins Friday night.

Workshops, dances and concerts will be held at the Saratoga Springs City Center, the Saratoga Hilton and the Saratoga Music Hall, among other places. More than 400 performers are expected, and more than 250 events have been planned.

Austrian, Cajun, Israeli and Latin dance sessions are on the schedule. So are hours titled “Zydeco Dance Party,” “Challenging Squares,” “Accordion Ensemble,” “Dances of Universal Peace” and “African Dance for Families.” Workshops for fiddling, body percussion, Gaelic singing and telling ghost stories are other attractions.

The full schedule is available at www.flurryfestival.org.

The 26th Annual Flurry Festival

WHERE: Saratoga Springs, various locations

WHEN: Friday-Sunday

HOW MUCH: $1 to $95 (full festival and session tickets)

MORE INFO: www.flurryfestival.org

Advanced ticket sales have closed. Festival tickets will be available at the door — $95 for adults, $65 for teens and $3 for children. Session tickets range from $1 to $60.

Youthful dancers

Teen spirit is important now, Flanders said, and will be important in the future.

“The teen group is a group we realized we didn’t have a whole lot that necessarily spoke to them,” she said.

“Because we’re in our 26th year, we’re entering a lot of three-generation families that are coming to us and that includes them bringing a lot of their teenagers. We really wanted to put a fresh eye on our festival and make sure that not just this year but in many years to come we keep providing workshops and activities that the teenagers specifically are really going to enjoy.”

Young dancers will make their moves in the “Not Your Parents’ Contra” and “Teen Swing Infusion” dances planned for Saturday at 12:30 and 9:15 p.m., respectively, at the City Center. A teens-only jam session will be held Saturday at 5:15 p.m. at the Hilton. A late-night — or early morning — techno contra dance is also expected to attract people with youth and stamina on their sides.

Flanders said teenagers have been welcomed at past music jam sessions. “Usually, the teens end up kind of sitting in with a lot of adults,” she said. “We’re creating a space for them to jam together, just teenagers.”

Flanders understands some teens would rather be together for dances, too — although she said Flurry events have always been all-age friendly.

“It’s intimidating to some youths to join the bigger dances because they don’t have the experience to keep up with the adult dancers,” she said.

About 5,000 people traditionally attend the Flurry. Flanders estimated that between 800 and 900 are under 21. Those young people, she believes, might have the most fun.

“It’s an ‘anything goes’ atmosphere,” she said. “They can walk down a hall and go African drumming, then folk dancing, then swing dancing and then clogging — all within one hour. It’s this saturation of music and experience.”

Older dancers can do the same thing. But Flanders believes Flurry exploration is new territory for many teens.

“Your typical teenager doesn’t get this cultural immersion,” she said. “It’s also like a ‘no judgment’ zone. Nobody cares what you’re wearing, nobody cares how you dance. You can be a complete idiot on the dance floor and people are just going to smile and say, ‘Isn’t that great?’ As long as you’re smiling and having fun.”

Teens and other young people are expected to pack the techno contra dance. It’s the first time the Flurry will run a dance like this, complete with black lights and strobe lights. And when the bright and dark colors are turned on at 12:30 a.m. Saturday, it will become the latest starter in Flurry history.

Flanders said the Parting Glass tavern hosted a techno contra last year, after Flurry activities had ended for the night. It was packed in 30 minutes, and Flurry officials decided to grab a piece of the action for 2013.

“It’s louder and faster than a traditional contra, with black lights and glow-in-the-dark clothes,” Flanders said. “Contra dancing is all ages, but techno contra tends to draw a younger crowd. But it’s not just for the younger crowd.”

The dance will be held inside the Hilton’s Melita Ballroom. The space is much larger than the Parting Glass; Flanders said if the room fills to capacity, people will have to wait until others leave before they get chances to groove.

Orderly process

“One of the things that people like about contra dancing is — because it’s called and because there are certain steps that are happening in an order — it’s great for people who are not freestyle dancers,” Flanders said.

“When you’re a contra dancer, it helps because someone is saying ‘This is the move now.’ You’re being told what to do, so there’s that draw of that being organized and scripted for you.

“When you add the element of the techno contra, you’ve got the pulse of the electronic music, which is very energizing, and the black lights, which add that more progressive club feeling. It’s an edgy, energetic way to experience contra dancing.”

 
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