Dance Planet, now in its 16th year and formerly called Dance for the Planet, is the oldest and largest free dance festival in the United States. The Dance Council of North Texas' two-day event will be held March 31-April 1 at the Booker T. Washington High School for the Performing and Visual Arts in the Dallas Arts District.
"This is our signature event that we do every year," says Dance Planet co-chair Gayle Zaks Halperin. "This is geared towards every dance group in the community, at every level, from studios to elementary schools, the colleges and professional companies."
Over the course of two days, instructors will teach 30 different kinds of dance and fitness classes in three large studios at Booker T, including hip-hop, salsa, flamenco, folklorico, clown dance, Afro-Caribbean, belly dance rockin' technique and musical theater. New this year is kabuki. A full schedule is available at danceplanet16.org.
Around 80 dance groups are slated to perform on both Saturday and Sunday, with each of them getting less than 10 minutes of stage time.
"We call it the 'great democratic dance festival,' " says Halperin. "Maybe the youngest performer is in second grade, and then there is a senior dance company called Class Act. Those ladies range in age from 55 to 70. Then there are the intergenerational praise dance groups—there are many of them in the area."
Each year, Dance Planet hosts a guest artist. This year, Dallas native and alumna of Booker T. Washington HSPVA, Teresa Espinosa, will give a special presentation. Espinosa is a nationally acclaimed hip-hop choreographer, dancer, and instructor at the Debbie Reynolds Studio in Los Angeles.
She got her start on Janet Jackson's The Velvet Rope Tour and was nominated for an Emmy Award as one of its contributing choreographers for the HBO Special, The Velvet Rope: Live in Madison Square Garden. Espinosa has also worked with Britney Spears, Pink, Rihanna, Mariah Carey and Selena Gomez.
For the second year, an Adaptive Dance Teacher's Workshop will be offered. These are professional development classes for physical and occupational therapists who work with special needs children and adults through movement.
"Much more attention to the field of dance because of all of the research that has been done on the benefits it offers to people with physical disabilities, along with Alzheimers and Parkinson's disease," says Halperin. She says Dance Planet will also host a state-wide convention of instructors and therapists in the area.
Halperin is anticipating that 3,000 people will take part in dance Planet 16. Roughly 75 percent of them are from North Texas, although she says groups also come from Louisiana and Oklahoma.
"If you're a dancer, you'll have a place at Dance Planet."