Photo essay: NYC Dance Parade 2011 rocks the East Village

Bolivian dancers, cheerleaders, roller skaters, drag performers, a stripper and other free spirits twirled through the East Village on Saturday during the fifth annual New York Dance Parade.

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Over 9,000 dancers participated in the event according to organizers, and an enthusiastic crowd cheered from the sidelines. On 1st Avenue, tourists atop a double-decker bus waved, danced and snapped photos of the action.

Scroll down for video and photos of this colorful parade, which culminated in a “DanceFest” at Tompkins Square Park.

NYC Dance Parade 2011 from Downtown Traveler on Vimeo.

Well-kept secret?

Although I live near the parade route I hadn’t heard of the event until Saturday morning. I awoke early on May 21st– “Judgement Day” according to a fringe religious group— and was surprised to find St. Marks Place covered in barricades.

I asked a beat cop what was going on and could hardly believe his answer. The preparations weren’t for a political rally or street fair, but something called a “dance parade.” I’m a fan of the Gay Pride Parade, the Halloween Parade and any event that combines costumes, pageantry and thumping bass beats, but the generic theme didn’t sound promising.

As it turned out, I couldn’t escape the dance parade– and that’s a good thing!

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South American pride

I emerged from the subway station at 8th and Broadway around 2 o’clock and was greeted by loud Andean music. Women in short skirts, bowler hats and braids marched through the streets, followed by men in black and gold suits with “USA” written on the sleeves.

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A fellow bystander told me this was a Bolivian dance troupe. Similar groups were scattered throughout the parade, giving the event a South American flair.

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It was a hot day, and the dancers must have been sweltering in their costumes. They never let on, and danced for the whole route without a break.
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Ultimate photo-op

As I followed the parade down St. Marks Place, I found a shady spot near BBQ’s to snap photos.

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The total lack of promotion– I didn’t see a single poster in the neighborhood advertising the event– resulted in light crowds. Normally, I’d have to arrive early to score a plum spot at a Manhattan parade.

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I stood right next to the barricade and snapped photos until my 2 GB memory card ran out: the hallmark of a great event!

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Tourists go wild

The parade ended with a bang. One of the last groups was a mishmash of hippies in DayGlo outfits, including a woman in a pirate hat, a man in a green spandex bodysuit and a group of hula hoopers.

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Passengers on a double-decker tour bus went wild for the float, which no doubt reminded them of a European Love Parade.

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Watching middle-aged German and French tourists bob to the electro beat was the highlight of my week!

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For more info

Visit Dance Parade NYC’s website and Facebook page for additional images and for details of their 2011 photo contest; the grand prize is two tickets to the Broadway musical Billy Elliott.

Follow the Dance Parade on Twitter (@danceparadenyc) for news and event updates.


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About Leslie Koch

I'm a New Yorker with a passion for travel and art. I founded after returning from a year-long backpacking trip around the world. Find me on Twitter at @leslietravel.