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VOL. 129 | NO. 93 | Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Dancing on Broad

Eight-week event brings party to Broad’s new water tower pavilion

By Andy Meek

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A person doesn’t have to look far to get a feel for the distinctiveness and the uniquely artistic hue that colors Memphis’ Broad Avenue neighborhood.

The New York dance company Camille A. Brown & Dancers launched Dance on Broad as the first event May 10. The eight-week series on Saturdays takes place at the Broad Avenue Water Tower Pavilion.

(Daily News/Andrew J. Breig)

To cite one example: The neighborhood for eight weeks this summer is hosting a dance party.

The visual arts already are deeply intertwined with the character of the neighborhood, which is home to a bevy of galleries and studios. And the eight-week Dance on Broad series, which kicked off May 10, is christening the newly opened Broad Avenue Water Tower Pavilion.

In the words of pavilion project director Pat Brown, the event also will showcase the performance arts in the neighborhood.

To continue revitalizing a neighborhood like Broad, she said, businesses in the area need traffic. And events are an easy way to deliver those feet on the street.

“Our focus is how we go about bringing the arts to a neighborhood,” said Brown, who’s also co-owner of T. Clifton Art Gallery. “It’s on how we can incubate or provide an opportunity for performing artists to get experience and incubate their craft as well as incubate new audiences so that we’re exposing the arts and bringing the arts to people who traditionally haven’t gone to a brick-and-mortar kind of setting.”

The pavilion was developed from the warehouse loading dock on the north side of the street. It’s still active for warehouse purposes during the day, and on nights and weekends it will be used as a performance space.

It includes a grand entrance with a staircase that connects Broad Avenue at street level to the loading dock area. To celebrate that space and the neighborhood itself, a different community dance party will be featured at the pavilion each Saturday night for the eight-week series.

Memphis-based Collage Dance Collective, at 2497 Broad Ave., has led the preparations for Dance on Broad. Since its inception in 2009, the collective’s ballet school has trained more than 400 students.

Inner-city students are currently being trained through partnerships with various area schools, and many of the students in training were first exposed to ballet through the program.

New York dance company Camille A. Brown & Dancers launched Dance on Broad as the first event May 10.

Salsa dancing will be featured at the May 17 event. On May 24, it’s swing. May 31 is line dancing, June 7 is Afro House, June 14 is Zumba and June 21 is Bollywood. A Best of Memphis dance concert June 28 will conclude the series with performances from a variety of area dance companies.

Brown, in town this past weekend, has picked up a slew of awards. Among them, she’s a recipient of the 2014 Joyce Award with DANCECleveland, and a 2014 New York City Center choreography fellow. She also was the 2013 recipient of The International Association of Blacks in Dance Founders Award and a recipient of the 2012 City College of New York Women & Culture Award, among others.

“I’ve actually been to Memphis before, and it’s great to come back,” Brown said. “I worked with Ballet Memphis, choreographing two pieces for them. I love dance so much. There’s nothing like it to me. I never was a talkative child. I was an observer, and dance was the universal language I was most comfortable speaking.”

The Dance on Broad events are free. Live music will be provided, and parking is available in the lot to the east of the pavilion. There’s a full bar, artists market and food trucks – and dancing, organizers say, is mandatory.

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