BRATTLEBORO -- "Everybody can dance. Everybody's got moves that are all their own," said Jennifer Weber, dancer and director of the all-female hip-hop troupe Decadancetheatre.
For the next four days, Brattleboro's gonna bust a move uniquely its own with the inaugural Southern Vermont Dance Festival, a four-day celebration of dance and community that features workshops, performances, live music, lectures and community events.
With something for everyone, from the professional dancer to the nervous novice, the festival, which starts Thursday at 9 a.m. and runs through Sunday with a final concert at 4 p.m., also celebrates our unique community.
"Brattleboro's this great little thriving creative environment," said dancer Billbob Brown, who will be teaching and performing with Chaos Theory Dance during the festival.
The driving force behind the festival is Artistic Executive Director Brenda Siegel, who conceived of the event not only because she is a passionate dancer but also because she loves her hometown and wants to help. The festival immediately grabbed the business community by the hand and whisked it onto the dance floor as its partner in the event. Most festival offerings take place downtown or nearby, and there is time between classes, workshops and performances for dining, shopping Brattleboro's Sidewalk Sale Days and enjoying the town.
"If I am going to organize and host a dance event that takes place in Brattleboro, it has to help rebuild our businesses. It has to contribute to the growth of our local economy in a real and tangible way," Siegel stated.
On Tuesday, enjoying a bit of calm before the storm, Siegel was doing one of the things she loves best, teaching dance to a group of area teens in the pre-professional program at her IBIT Dance Company above Headroom Stages on Elliot Street. They were preparing for their performances during the festival and having a great time despite the heat.
"This reminds me, I'm a dancer, that's why I did this," said Siegel of the festival which has become a giant labor of love.
The five young dancers, ages 12-16, were working on two modern dance pieces, "Go For Tunnel" and "Inside and Birch Tree" -- and eagerly awaiting the festival.
Many things excited them, from working with new teachers, to trying new things, to the full immersion of many classes in one day, to the chance to share the stage at performances with professional dancers and companies.
Even more, they were looking forward to a chance to put Brattleboro on the map for this festival.
"It's a small community, but I really feel like it could be a bigger dance community. ... (One day maybe) People will say, ‘Oh, Brattleboro, the place where that amazing dance festival is," said IBIT dancer Kestrel Osman, age 14, who urged people to come out. "There's no reason why you shouldn't go. Anyone can dance, and everyone should dance."
And the festival has what you're looking for. Classes take place on Thursday from 9 a.m. to 7:30 p.m., and Friday, Saturday and Sunday from 7 a.m. to 7:30 p.m. Class offerings include ballet, jazz, contemporary, modern, belly dance, hip-hop, flamenco, salsa, African, yoga, pilates, waltz, Bollywood, break dance and tango. There are also some more intriguing offerings: "Hot in Heels," "Making Funny Dances," "Emotion in Motion" and "Discovering Pas Life Memories Through Dance."
You must register and buy either one-day or Full Immersion tickets to take part in classes. Those tickets are available at www.southernvermontdancefestival or at the Robert H. Gibson River Garden beginning at 7:30 a.m. on Thursday.
Some classes are aimed at intermediate level or experienced dancers, but many more are open to all levels.
"There's something for everyone," said Jennifer Weber, whose classes in hip-hop and break dancing should be popular ones.
Weber got her start in the dance world because she loved to dance at clubs. From there, she landed a job as a choreographer and has worked with pop musicians. She directs Decadancetheatre whose mission is "staying true to the roots of old-school hip-hop in terms of technique but pushing it forward."
Decadance made its first big splash in 2004 by remixing Stravinsky's "Firebird" in hip-hop style. They recently performed a hip-hip version of Vivaldi's "Four Seasons" at The Apollo Theater.
"Hip-hop is about finding your own voice and your own style. It just matters that you have a love of music and a love of rhythm and a love of sharing," she said.
The festival also features a number of special events, which are open to ticketed festival-goers and the public, which can buy individual tickets to them. Those events include a Panel Discussion and Meet the Faculty on Thursday at 8 p.m. at the River Garden (Admission is $8 in advance, $10 at the door); An Informal concert on Friday at 1 p.m., at; a Gala Concert on Friday at 4:30 p.m., featuring IBIT Dance Company, Sonia Plumb Dance Company, Ali Kenner Brodsky, Yabei Chen, Holly Johnson, Weathermakers and Angie Muzzy ($22 in advance, $18 for students, $25 and $22 at the door); a Gala Concert Saturday at 8 p.m., at Landmark College in Putney, featuring Chaos Theory Dance, LCTC, Jennifer Weber, North Atlantic Ballet, Jessica Howard, Paul Matteson and Eliza Larson ($22 in advance, $18 for students, $25 and $22 at the door); and a performance titled "Kinesio Logic" on Sunday at 4 p.m., at The Stone Church, featuring Chaos Theory Dance, with special guest Felice Wolfzahn.
"Dancers and dance companies would love to have people take chances and see dance," said Lorraine Chapman of LCTC. "Come on, you know everybody's moving all the time. People just move; that's how we express ourselves."
There are other free public events during the festival, including live music at the Robert H. Gibson Giver Garden on Thursday from 10 a.m. to 1 p.m., and on Saturday on The Common from noon to 4 p.m., as well as dance demonstrations, workshops and performances. There is an SVDF Dance Party on Friday at 8 p.m., at the River Garden. Admission is $5.
Participants can choose to attend the festival for the full four days or sample the festival on one day only; in addition they can purchase tickets to attend the performances throughout the weekend. Tickets are available by visiting www.southernvermontdancefestival.com.