With the trendy flood of television, movies and music all popularizing the sweat-soaked pastime, people young and old are curious as to how they can get in on the fun and exactly how to shake to the beat without looking like Uncle Morty grooving to the "funky chicken" at the last family reunion.
That's why DuDell and Associates and Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area have teamed up to create DanceQuake, a traveling troupe of seven paid Bay Area dancers. Cast from an open call audition in San Francisco, the group will travel to schools and other events to educate kids and adults about the benefits of different kinds of dance, especially those that flourish in the diverse Bay Area.
DanceQuake will cover Hip-Hop, Afro-Cuban, Jazz, Latin and more local street-style dancing. Each represents a part of the Bay Area, and combined, makes for powerhouse combinations that are artistically stunning.
Dance of all kinds provides a heart-pumping workout that burns about 400 calories an hour and also gives ample oppurtunity to express oneself while becoming limber, agile and graceful.
Considering that children today are becoming one of the most obese generations in history, any encouragement to switch off the dancers on the tube and start really moving helps parents and teachers win the fight again child-onset diabetes and other health problems caused by being overweight.
Natasha Jacobs, 27, was one of the many hopeful young dancers who attended the open-call audition at ODC Dance Theaters on July 22. Since graduating from El Cerrito High School, where she began dancing, Jacobs has been teaching
dance to youths at Destiny Arts Center in Oakland.
"Most kids don't know about beats and choreography," she says. "It's great for them to learn about other styles like salsa and jazz."
Education plays a big role in getting fit and DanceQuake aims to take the first steps in letting kids know that dance isn't just a way to celebrate it's a topic that can be discussed and studied while still being fun.
Kimberly Byrne, president of the Ronald McDonald House Charities of the Bay Area, regards the DanceQuake program as the first step for young people looking to get in shape.
"Kids don't need to have a team, they don't need to have equipment, they don't even have to have a teacher. They can take what they learn in these sessions with DanceQuake and just dance. It's healthy and it's fun. What's to lose?"
The partnership between the active lifestyle and McDonalds might seem dubious, but Ronald McDonald House is actually a very active link in Bay Area charities.
"Many of the things we are involved with are so serious," Bryne said during the open call auditions, sitting in front of a group of 30 twirling young dancers, "but this is just plain fun."
The roster of names supporting the program is lengthy, and includes San Francisco choreographer Micaya, who helped create the San Francisco Hip Hop Dancefest, and judges included other prominent Bay Area dancers who are familiar with the struggle and hard work that goes into each dancer's personal style.
During the open call, judges spent an entire day wheedling down the final list from almost 300 dancers to 75 to 38 in several rounds of callbacks. Some dancers left heartbroken, and others looked on cheerfully to their next auditions. Finals for the last 38 dancers will be held on Aug. 4 at the Fremont Festival of the Arts. Watch on the main stage from noon - 2 p.m when seven dancers will walk away with paying gigs. More important, they will have the new mission of instilling their love of dance in others.
Laura DuDell-Foley, who created DanceQuake, says she chose the Fremont Festival to have the finals in "because this isn't just a San Francisco program. It's going to the South Bay, the North Bay, the East Bay ... it's for everyone."
What is not for everyone are the seven spots in the troupe; rejection is an inevitable part of a the life of a professional dancer. But judging from the hopeful faces and encouraging shouts at the open call, negativity was not part of the party.
Television shows like MTV's Dance Life, which was produced by mover and shaker Jennifer Lopez, have familiarized the public with the harsh realities of being a working dancer, but nothing can compare with watching young professionals in action, trying to make their best impression on scores of judges, audience members and their peers.
"Our hope for DanceQuake is to build a core of dancers and give then experience performing, as well as get them interacting with kids," DuDell-Foley says, "That's really the core of it."
Amanda Brand can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org or at (925) 416-4729.