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Leon Mitrani
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Saratoga Hotel

Dance Flurry - The Midwinter Dance Extravaganza

by Leon Mitrani
February 27, 2006
Saratoga Hotel
534 Broadway
Saratoga Springs, NY 12866

Dance Flurry - The Midwinter Dance Extravaganza

Leon Mitrani
February 27, 2006

Let's imagine what dance heaven would be like. There's dancing all day long, from the time you wake up until bedtime at one or two in the morning. There's almost every type of dancing you can think of, including swing, Latin, Country, Two-step, Contras, English, Scandinavian, Irish, Zydeco, Cajun, African and many others. There's dancing for experienced, intermediate, and beginner dancers. There are ample proficient partners to dance with. You say you'd also like to listen to good music during breaks. OK, we'll throw that into the mix as well. If that is your concept of dance heaven, and it is mine, then the Dance Flurry that takes places every year during Presidents' Day weekend at Saratoga Springs, NY, is for you. Dancers range in age from high-school students to retirees in their seventies.

I've been going to these festivities for five of the last six years, and can attest to how fulfilling it is for my fellow dancers and me. We regularly patronize many dances in Manhattan, with special emphasis on Contras, Swing, and the Louisiana cousins, Zydeco and Cajun dances, which are my favorites. Going to the Flurry adds the spices missing at local dances. It's a rare opportunity to meet dancers from other parts of the country, but mostly from upstate New York and the Northeast. We can listen to bands we've never heard before, and the sheer number of thousands of dancers assembled in one place makes this seem like a pilgrimage of devoted followers. The energy level is invigorating.

There are limitations from maximizing this experience. Since at any given time many events or concerts take place simultaneously, there are times when two or more of your favorite dances take place at the same hour, forcing you to make a very difficult choice. Another frustration is fatigue. I consider myself in great shape, and can dance for hours without rest, but I can't dance for 15 hours without eating and taking a one-hour nap in the afternoon. Most other dancers also have this physical limit. Third, Saratoga Springs, the host city, is a very picturesque town this time of year, with many interesting shops and charming restaurants. Eating a leisurely two-hour dinner detracts from the dance experience. If you're thinking all of life should offer such nice choices, you're right. A fourth somewhat inconvenient fact is that for New Yorkers, the four-hour ride can be tedious.

What else is memorable about the festival? At the Saratoga Hotel where the main ballrooms are located, the hallways are literally filled with music. Accomplished musicians jamming with each other in groups of three to twelve playing country, Cajun and other music, as well as waltzes, populate nearly every passageway. If you're experienced in several types of dances, but a beginner at others, there are instructional classes for nearly all types of dances appropriately marked as such.

If you come with a friend or partner who is not a dancer, there are sessions through out the day where that person can listen to music or a discussion about the roots of different types of music. If you're trying to find out where else there are dances in your area, there are dozens of flyers announcing upcoming dance schedules throughout the Northeast.

Two dozen merchants sell Flurry related material like CDs, dancing shoes, instruments, clothing, and other items found at flea markets. All are moderately priced, with some proceeds going to support the Flurry. Food kiosks run by the hotel, where we can buy buffet dishes for quick consumption if we don't want to miss too many dances, are conveniently located.

What else should you know? The main costs are travel and lodging. The admission price for the entire three-day festival is a modest $75, with a $10 discount for advanced registrants. For those financially strapped, the Flurry offers free admission in exchange for six hours of volunteering. Lodging at nearby hotels—most of which are within walking distance, that is, within a mile of the Saratoga Hotel where most of the dances are held—cost about $115/night, plus or minus $20. I share a room with a friend to cut my expenses in half. Saratoga Springs is easily reachable by bus or Amtrak at a round trip cost of about $85 from New York City.

For dancers who never attended a dance festival and restrict themselves to local events, this experience is like moving up a level in your quest for excellence. It would be like a high school teacher moving to college teaching, a short story writer tackling a novel or an off-Broadway actor going to the Great White Way. The bands are a notch better, the dancers more experienced, and the energy level higher.

For more on the festival, including links to lodging, transportation, the dance program, photos and audios, visit their website, www.danceflurry.org, which is full of helpful information. I look forward to seeing you there.

P.S.: While the Flurry is highly anticipated months in advance, the 2006 version was abbreviated to six hours of dancing on Saturday due to a massive power failure that struck Saratoga Springs and its immediate surroundings. It was caused by hurricane strength winds of over 100 miles per hour that killed two people; power was not restored until Sunday night. The Planning Committee, consisting of volunteers who work tirelessly to ensure the Flurry's success, has already begun preparing for the 2007 version.

Dance Flurry 2006
Photo courtesy of Timothy Raab

More Dance Flurry 2006 photos.

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