The northeastern U.S. city of Boston, Massachusetts, is a city rich in culture – from its prominent professional theater companies to its world-renowned Boston Symphony Orchestra. Less well known are the city's many talented dance companies. In order to change that, the city recently hosted the fourth annual Dance Across the City, a chance to spotlight the city's wealth of talented dancers. Yi Suli reports the event was not only a chance to watch, but also a chance to learn how to dance. Elaine Lu narrates the video.
For the Bostonians who took part, dancing is more than art. “It's a fun way to express yourself," one dancer says.
"It's in you," says Betty Milhendler, another dancer. "You [have] got to do it because you love it."
Dancer Lorraine Chapman adds, "It feeds the soul, the heart, the mind and the spirit."
Dance Across the City is an annual, free event in Boston. "I really believe the mission is to showcase the wealth of talented dancers and dance companies throughout the world," says Susan Wilson, one of the organizers of the event..
This year's Dance Across the City featured two days of activities where participants could enjoy dance performances as well as register for various dance classes.
"I just love the challenge of moving my body in a disciplined way," says college student Jean Lee. "And the mental exercise of learning combinations and putting it together, and just the joy of moving with music, moving with people – it is a very communal kind of love."
Jody Kreiken is trained in classical ballet, but she wants to try belly dancing. "It just looks cool. It looks cool how these women move. I hope I can do it," she says.
Karen Uminski, a dance instructor at Goddess Dancing, a local dance company, understands the appeal of the Middle Eastern dance.
"In this very puritanical culture that we live in, we have lost touch to a great extent with our bodies," she says. "Really, belly dancing is a process of getting to know your body. It is one of the reasons why we are so excited."
Uminski says getting in touch with the body enhances one's self-confidence. Shaumba-Yandje Dibinga, the director of OrigiNation Incorporated, a dance company from a black community in Boston, agrees.
"They do take dance classes,” she says. “But we kind of focus on helping them boost their self-esteem, and learn how to speak in public. We talk to them about education and understanding that their academics come first."
Arlene Steiner, another instructor at the event, says dance awakens the body.
"There is a lot of strength in their body they are not used to tapping into and see how fun it is to push it out of them,” she says. “You can push your body really hard, that is what it is made for."
For some, dancing is even more powerful.
Dancer Chapman says, "I think dancing is important. I don't think we would be at war in Iraq if everybody took a dance class everyday."
"It is part of your existence,” says 83-year-old Milhendler. “It is part of your identity and there is a joy in dancing and movement. I'm happy to be still able to do it."
Dance Across the City features a wide gamut of dances: from classical ballet to modern dance, from fiery tango to sensual belly dancing, from Indian traditional to Latin salsa, and even Afro-Haitian where every muscle in the body throbs with the drumbeat.
"I love the movements,” says dancer Yujeana. “It is just very spiritual for me. It really connects me to my body. "
But for many, like instructor Wilmayer Marcelin, dancing is simply a way to bring people together. "Remember, dance is love. Dance is universal,” he says. “It doesn't matter where you are from or who you are. Everybody can dance."