Featured photo: Collage of performers for National Dance Day in Greensboro (photo by Jennifer Scheib, Greensboro Downtown Parks, Inc)

Ramya Sundaresan Kapadia stood in front of the purple leaf sculpture in Carolyn’s Garden in LeBauer Park. She was preparing to dance Bharatanatyam, a form of Indian classical dance characterized by elaborate costumes and frequent hand gestures to express Hindu religious themes.

“Namaste,” Kapadia said as she held her hands out towards videographer Paul Byun. “Today I present to you Samarpan — an offering.”

National Dance Day has been taking place annually on the third Saturday in September since 2010 but made its way to Greensboro in 2017. This year, instead of the usual gathering of people in the park to view live performances, Byun filmed solo and group routines in various locations around the park and posted them to GDPI’s YouTube channel. Each year, international flags are suspended above the park to honor forms of dance from different countries. Some dancers, like Kapadia, use the annual event to showcase dances from their own culture.

Before beginning, Kapadia briefly described the meaning of Bharatanatyam.

“Through this piece, I open myself up to whatever life has to offer,” she said.

According to Kapadia, she began learning music and singing at three years old. In 2008, she founded the Natyarpana School of Dance & Music in Durham.

Dressed in traditional Indian dress, Kapadia’s gown and sleeves flowed as she used the entire garden as her stage. Her big, brown eyes helped convey the vulnerability of the subject of the dance.

Screenshot from Kapadia’s National Dance Day performance.

“The piece is basically saying, ‘I don’t know anything,’” Kapadia said in a statement prior to the video’s release. “‘I don’t know where I am or what I am doing. I don’t know the proper way of living. Take my hand and lead me.’”

There to infuse Latin American flavor to the celebration was GSO Salseros, a group of four friends representing several Caribbean countries — Jamaica, the Dominican Republic, Colombia and Venezuela — who dance at outings around the city. One member, Maria Gonzalez, was shocked to find out they were chosen to perform this year.

 “We’re not professional dancers, just friends who like to come together through dance,” she said in an interview with GDPI prior to the event.

They chose to dance salsa to “Han Cogido La Cosa” by A Golpe De Folklore.

The quartet members, filmed by Byun at the LeBauer Park Seasonal Plaza, were dressed in T-shirts representing their home country. They began their performance by dancing in pairs, eventually forming a line and dancing alone.

Princess Johnson, founder of Royal Expressions of Dance, brought her troupe of young dancers ranging in age from 2-16 years old to the park to perform an Afro-jazz contemporary routine. The routine, performed to “Freedomby Nicole Mullen, was created to address the current state of race relations and politics in the country.

“We wanted to express our frustration,” she said, “but also our hope for things to get better in regards to arts funding and performance opportunities for Black arts organizations in Greensboro.”

The dance began with just the five older girls dressed in African clothing, but each girl added her own style to her outfit. Some girls opted for printed pants while others wore leggings with wraps around their waists. They were eventually joined by the younger dancers in animal print tutus and headbands with ears, dancing as zebras and cheetahs and other African animals. The dance was a fusion of jazz and traditional African movements.

Screenshot from Royal Expression Dance from National Dance Day

Although this year’s performances were done differently than normal, Gonzalez from GSO Salseros remains hopeful for next year.

“National Dance Day is so valuable for our community because it shows that dance is for everyone,” she said to GDPI.  “We hope that next year we can gather as a community again and dance together under the international flags in LeBauer Park.”

All performances will permanently remain on GDPI’s YouTube channel.

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