National Dance Day celebrates 50 years of hip-hop at Kennedy Center

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews National Day Day at the Kennedy Center (Part 1)

Don’t just stand there, bust a move at the Kennedy Center for National Dance Day.

A dancer break dances at the Kennedy Center for National Dance Day. (Kennedy Center)(Courtesy Kennedy Center)

Free outdoor events go down at The REACH from 10:30 a.m. to 11:15 p.m. on Saturday.

“National Dance Day is in its 14th year, originally started by Nigel Lythgoe and his foundation, American Dance Movement, on the West Coast in collaboration with our own D.C. Congresswoman Eleanor Holmes Norton,” Jane Raleigh, the Kennedy Center’s director of dance programming, told WTOP. “This year in honor of the 50th anniversary of hip-hop as a genre, all of our focus of National Dance Day will be celebrating 50 years of hip-hop.”

The 50th anniversary of hip-hop celebration is curated by Lauren DeVera, Project ChArma, and Chitra Subramanian and presented in collaboration with the hip-hop nonprofits Words Beats & Life and True School.

“Everyone that you’ll see at the Kennedy Center is a local hip-hop practitioner, teacher, choreographer, performer,” Raleigh said. “They’re representing all the different styles of hip-hop, so there will be classes and performances in breaking and breakdancing, some top rock, some bounces, some hip-hop grooves, some house music and house dancing, some club-style dancing. … Different portions of the genre will really be broken down.”

It’s all interactive as visitors are invited to learn the National Dance Day routine, an annual favorite.

“American Dance Movement creates a national routine for the entire country to learn each year,” Raleigh said. “They send a popular artist, often a dancer from ‘So You Think You Can Dance?’ or this year ‘World of Dance,’ which is a newer offshoot, to the Kennedy Center and that person actually teaches the national routine. This year we have Poppin John, who has a really big YouTube following and was also a finalist on ‘World of Dance.’”

You’ll also enjoy watching the annual “Freshest of All Time” dance competition.

“Words Beats & Life brings together b-boys and b-girls from across the region and they battle one vs. one,” Raleigh said. “Starting at 1:30 p.m. inside in our Millennium Stage area, we’ll have our early preliminary rounds judged by some local b-boys, then at 4:00 that whole battle will move outside for the later rounds, the semifinals and culminating in the finals where we see incredible battle demonstrations from the freshest of all time.”

There will also be the “Fine Lines Paint Jam” with live graffiti art on nine 8-by-8-foot murals.

“We’re inviting nine visual artists who will do graffiti-style spray painting,” Raleigh said. “These artists will create visual representations of what the 50th anniversary of hip-hop means to them. They’ll paint live from noon until 7 p.m., so if you come at the end of the day, you’ll be able to see the incredible art they’ve made, but if you’re here throughout the day dancing, you can walk over and watch them actually working live, creating these murals.”

It all culminates with a nighttime dance party sponsored by True School Corporation, featuring celebrity DJ sets by Sean “DJ Face” Armstrong, DJ Marc Nfinit and the legendary DJ Spinderella from 7:30 to 11:15 p.m.

“It’s super exciting to have such an iconic DJ with us,” Raleigh said. “The three of them will all be in the same space at The River Pavilion at The REACH, just spinning different sets and taking us into the night, so you can dance and learn with us during the day and then take the moves that you’ve learned and party with us into the night.”

Find more information here.

WTOP’s Jason Fraley previews National Day Day at the Kennedy Center (Part 2)

Listen to our full conversation here.

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