From the stage of the McClellan Theater, if all goes according to plan, a community will come together — unified by the power and splendid beauty of dance. Even those in the audience suffering with two left feet will be moved by the rhythmic skills to the point of living vicariously through and being uplifted by the numerous dancers whose talents will inspire beneath the spotlights glare.
That’s the hope of Robin Bauer, chairman of the Cheaha Dance Alliance and organizer of the third annual Celebration of Dance. Billed as “The Nutcracker meets Juneteenth,” this year’s festival of movement will feature a variety of dancers and styles ranging from hip-hop to country line dance, zumba to jazz, belly dancers to interpretive and everything in between.
“Our message is simple,” Bauer says, “we just want to see people coming together, to see the community come together and appreciate the amazing amount of talent we’ve got in the area.”
That talent includes the likes of 17-year-old Keoni Spears, aka iFloBot, whose blend of hip-hop/house dance styles defies written explanation.
“You gotta see it to believe it,” said the Saks High School student. “God gave me this talent as a way to keep out of trouble, to deal with the frustrations in my life. Dancing for me is a natural high.”
While he dances with a group called Elevation at his church in Gadsden, Sunday’s Celebration of Dance will be the first time Spears has performed in a festival-type setting — not that he’s especially nervous about performing.
“I’m excited to show people what I can do,” he said. “This is something totally new for me, but it’ll be something new for (the audience), too. I bet they’ve never seen anything like this.”
Bauer would agree, not only about Spears’ gifts but about the variety of the skill levels of the dancers who will be performing during the Celebration.
“I was surprised at all the different kinds of dance that was going on around here,” said Bauer, who put out a free, open call to participate in the show. “And we’re honestly just scratching the surface.”
Shae Gilbert heard about the show by “word of mouth” and wanted to get involved. A graduate of Jacksonville State University, Gilbert’s been dancing for 11 years and joined In His Steps Dance Studio in 2001 where she studied a variety of styles, including ballet, modern, liturgical, jazz and hip hop.
“It’s the experience of dance that brings all people together,” said the 34-year-old Gilbert. “Whether it’s hip-hop or jazz, dance can be a ministry. It’s a place for all of us to commune together.”
The audience — whether they can dance or not — will be swept up in the movement that will stir both the body and spirit, Gilbert says.
“It’ll be so exciting,” she said. “It’ll put those who’ve had the desire, the dream to dance in the place of those on stage. Even if they think they can’t dance, they’ll share in the joy that comes from dancing.”
But the Celebration won’t always be such a cerebral atmosphere, not with the Lawn Chair Drill Team from Pell City there to provide a bit of comic relief. Consisting of roughly seven veterans, the Lawn Chair Drill Team will perform exactly what their name suggests — a military-style show of arms, but rather than rifles, they’ll be presenting folding lawn chairs. And their uniforms will include “loud” clothes, Lake Martin T-shirts, high socks with sandals and “outrageous” ball caps, explains Drill Team leader Joe Johnson.
“We look like a bunch of crazy old men, which is the whole idea,” he said. “The more we mess up, the more the crowd loves it. They think the screw-ups are part of the act, but that’s not the case. You can’t fake this stuff.”
They’ll open with the theme music from “Bridge of the River Kwai,” before settling into a surprisingly well-rehearsed routine that runs about three minutes.
“We’re the clown act,” Johnson said. “And we’re fine with that. We just want to help show everyone a good time.”
With so much variety, the Celebration of Dance is also meant to be a celebration of the joy that comes from different people learning to live in harmony with one another, Bauer says.
“We want to have as much variety as possible, to have as many segments of the community represented as possible,” she said. “Our dance world is too often segregated — not necessarily along racial lines, but also social lines, age lines and economic lines. We want to move beyond that.”
Contact Brett Buckner at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Celebration of Dance
When: Sunday, 5 p.m.
Where: McClellan Theater, McClellan
Cost: $5 for individuals, $10 per family