The dancing in the streets began at 1 p.m. and didn’t stop until 9 p.m. More than 1,000 dancers took part in a nonstop, cross-cultural mix of over 85 performances, which varied from traditional forms of tap, ballet and jazz to contemporary hip-hop and Bollywood. The free event took over Grand Boulevard between Delmar and Lindell in Midtown on Saturday, Sept. 24.
Two separate groups of Webster University students put on performances. An improvisational dance piece on the steps of the Third Baptist Church came first. The improv piece confused people passing by, who looked quizzically at the dancers performing near the church doors. Some were fooled into following the dancers’ gazes up into the empty sky, while others strolled along without noticing a performance was happening at all.
Keron Foster and Paige Walden were two of the dancers in the improv performance. They said they enjoyed that people in St. Louis could come and experience dance for free in the middle of the city.
“I think it’s awesome that it’s free, so anyone can come and it’s not excluding anybody,” Walden said.
Kelly Weber, Vice President of marketing and communication for Grand Center, said the number of dancers at this year’s festival was a record high.
“I think the first year we had 500 (people), so we’ve doubled in five years,” Weber said. “We really wanted to focus on local and regional dance companies to give them a platform to show how great they are.”
Webster Dance Chair Beckah Reed said the university has performed at the festival since its inception.
“When we first started doing (the festival), we had the alumni performing because it happens in the beginning of the school year and we thought it was too much to put on the students,” Reed said.
The Webster dance department realized current students could be a part of the festival if they put on a piece that was rehearsed and choreographed last year. The second Webster performance at the festival was a repeat piece from a production on campus last semester.
Artistic director of the Modern American Dance Company (MADCO) Stacey West came to the festival to watch her company perform during the evening. West said she had been watching performances all day looking for potential dancers to hire.
“As one of the major professional companies here in St. Louis, I think it’s important to have a presence at festivals like this,” West said.