A flurry will descend upon Saratoga Springs this weekend.
It’s not of the snow variety, though there may be some of that, too. It’s the annual Flurry Festival.
The dance and music festival is 32 years in the making, bringing together contra, square, zydeco, country line, hip-hop, Appalachian clogging and other styles of dance. There’s also a wide range of music workshops and live performances.
The festival runs from Friday to Sunday, though somewhere between 400 and 500 people start setting up for the Flurry on Thursday, installing dance floors and sound systems; getting ready for the thousands of festival attendees.
“It’s like a mini-city for the weekend,” said Tamara Flanders, administrative director of and longtime volunteer with the Flurry Festival.
While many traditional dance/music festivals have battled lower attendance numbers in recent years, the Flurry Festival is still going strong according to organizers.
“Our numbers have stayed consistent [as far as] how many people come. A lot of festivals and traditional music festivals struggle after so many years, but we consistently have an attendance of 5,000 people,” Flanders said.
The festival has brought in more programs that appeal to younger audiences as well as older, like techno contra. The dance is paired with disco lights and techno music. Flanders has seen people in their 20s to people in their 70s in the sessions that go until 2 a.m. This year, there will also be hip-hop with Ryan Davis, beginner tap with Tango Fusion dance company, and body percussion workshops, a teen talent showcase and others.
Organizers have also worked to increase the number of children’s programs available, offering Pete Seeger Children’s songs, Gaslight Tinkers kids concert, storytelling and singing sessions with The Storycrafters and more.
Over the last five years, Flanders and other organizers have also worked to build a culture of consent, mostly by increased messaging.
“A lot of people, no matter what their age, but youth especially, have struggled in social dancing situations where they might not have been treated the way they wanted to be treated,” Flanders said. They encourage people to just ask permission when dancing, asking one another if they’d like to lead or to follow, whether they’d like a flourish or not, etc.
“The response from that has been overwhelming about [the festival] not just being fun but really [a] really safe-feeling environment,” Flanders said.
That goes for the music workshops and jam spaces as well, which make up almost half of the festival. The Flurry features music from a myriad of genres and workshops for guitar, banjo, mandolin, fiddle, ukulele and many others. According to Flanders, it’s another chance to get people involved, especially kids who wouldn’t normally have the chance to jam. There’s also plenty of chances to sit back and enjoy the music for those who aren’t musicians.
Zlatne Uste, a popular Balkan Brass Band, is coming for the first time this year. Returning bands include Alex Torres and His Latin Orchestra, which will be playing during Afro-Caribbean dancing slots, Curley Taylor and Zydeco Trouble, and the Gordon Webster Swing Band, which will be performing during the Lindy hip-hop dance slots.
For attendees who need a short respite from dancing or jamming, there’s a yoga class to start the day on Saturday and Sunday. Organizers have also taken one of the rooms they typically use for dancing and turned it into a cafeteria so attendees have a designated place to take a load off and enjoy a meal.
The festival takes place at a few different venues, one of which is new this year. Because of the closure of the music hall within City Hall, they’ll be using the ballroom of Excelsior Springs. That venue will feature mostly English country dancing and Scottish dancing, as well as waltzing, Tango, Victorian Set Dances, and the grand Scottish Country Dance Ball.
There will also be workshops and performances at the Saratoga Springs City Center, the Saratoga Hilton Hotel, the Parting Glass Pub and Putnam Place. CDTA will provide free shuttle rides for Flurry attendees.
The Flurry Festival runs from Friday to Sunday. For the full schedule and ticket information, visit flurryfestival.org
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