New York in the Summer Continued: Free August Outdoor Dance Events

I went to Dance Brazil and RumbaTap at Central Park’s Summer Stage last night and damn was it crowded. The most crowded I’ve ever seen Summer Stage. I ended up only staying for RumbaTap; left before Dance Brazil because I was just too claustrophobic (in my mind they let way too many people in; I was near the top in the bleachers, my knees jutting into the guy’s back in front of me, my own back being probed by the knees of the guy behind me, serried between the man next to me and the woman on my other side illegally sitting on a bleacher step because there was nowhere to stand. They really need to turn people away next time for safety purposes). I’d already seen Dance Brazil anyway (which I wrote about here) and they were performing the same program — Ritmo — so I figured I’d let someone else get squeezed all to bits.

(sorry so blurry; I’m one of the few who actually obeyed the “no flash photography” rule)

Anyway, Max Pollack’s RumbaTap was good (and I recognized one of the dancers, Matt‘s sister, Carson Murphy, right off the bat because of the big hair!). They danced to a variety of Latin rhythms — Salsa, Merengue, traditional Afro-Cuban, and even some Bulgarian (which is Mr. Pollack’s heritage). It was a bit hard, though, to see from so far away (one thing that annoys me greatly about Summer Stage is that no matter how early you get there, it’s hard to get a seat up front because they reserve practically all of them), and it was very hard not to be distracted by the hordes of people trying to find a seat, buying food, talking to each other and paying no attention to the dancing, etc. etc. etc. I think tap, like ballet, is probably too small, the movement too subtle and soft, to work well on a big, open-air stage like this where you don’t have crowd control. I’m thinking Dance Brazil’s Capoeira, with all the big, flashy acrobatics, probably captivated the crowd, especially in the back, much more successfully.

The crowd waiting for Dance Brazil…

Anyway, there’s one more Summer Stage dance event, next Friday, when Jennifer Muller and Erica Essners perform. Go here for info on Muller and Essners, and go here for the rest of the Summer Stage schedule (most of which consists of music events).

One of the great things about New York in August is the abundance of free outdoor events, most of which include dance: Lincoln Center Out of Doors, held in Damrosch Park, just behind the State Theater and facing Fordham Law School, is showcasing Armitage Gone! and Noche Flamenca, among other dance companies; the Lower Manhattan Culture Council’s Sitelines is a series of site-specific dance performances all taking place in lower Manhattan which are usually pretty good; the Downtown Dance Festival, sponsored by Battery Dance Company, takes place August 16-24 also at various Financial District-area locations; and, finally, my beloved Alvin Ailey continues celebrations of their 50th anniversary with several free performances and dance workshops throughout all five boroughs, including an all-day outdoor street festival on Saturday, August 9th in front of City Center in midtown Manhattan, with free performances inside that theater throughout the day.

Speaking of City Center, don’t forget Fall For Dance coming up September 17-27. Tickets for these $10 multi-company performances go on sale at 11:00 a.m. on September 7th and sell out in days if not hours. It doesn’t appear this year’s schedule is up yet (it’s on my mind because they were passing out flyers for it last night), but I’ll post it when it is. For those who don’t yet know about FFD, I don’t think there’s any greater value– you see a variety of top-notch dance companies for only $10 a ticket ($15 if you buy online, but STILL!)

Finally, as my art historian friend alerted me to, if you’re lucky enough to be in Paris in the near future, Sotheby’s is presenting what appears to be a magnificent collection of Ballet Russes material in celebration of that dance company’s 100th birthday. Looks fabulous.


  1. How fun! I’ve never before heard of the combination of tap and rumba, or any Latin for that matter – how did that translate? I can’t even imagine it that well.

  2. Hi Jolene! Well, unfortunately, I was sitting so far back and there was so much commotion going on throughout, I feel like I didn’t get a good chance to get a real feel for it. The partnering parts — the Salsa — were very much like regular Salsa, just with tap shoes. The other Latin/tap movement was kind of a combination, with breezy, flowing arms, laid-back upper-body, and the shuffling footwork. There was no Rumba, as I know that dance — slow, very romantic, luscious, fraught-with-sexual-tension, grounded, hip-py — it was lighter, and more like what I know as Merengue, Salsa, cute Cha Cha, but movement more rooted in fast legs, without a lot of hip action. But I think there are different kinds of Rumba, depending where you are in the world; each country has a different flavor, danced to a different rhythm. So, it could have been a kind of Rumba native to Cuba or another country!

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