Eor the first five years of its existence, Dancewave’s Kids Company had about twenty students every season. Then, in 2005, dozens of children, way more than usual, showed up at the company’s fall auditions. Something had happened, and, according to artistic director Diane Jacobowitz, that something was an explosion of high-stepping pop culture: Mad Hot Ballroom, Fox’s So You Think You Can Dance, and ABC’s Dancing With the Stars.
So when Dancewave’s annual Kids Cafe Festival—a sort of preprofessional recital—opens this weekend, Kids Company II, the group’s junior division, will be performing. Jacobowitz has mixed feelings about the prime-time dance boom—“it’s so much about showmanship and less about artistry”—but is quick to add that anything that brings attention to her field is a plus. Puella Lunaris, a professional flamenco dancer and Juilliard instructor, will perform the opening, pre-intermission, and closing numbers of the two-hour show, and kids from fourteen established troupes will show off their stuff in between. Some are sticking with Jacobowitz’s theme for this year—flamenco—whereas others are going with their strength: The Harkness Dance Center’s tap team, for example, is performing a tough piece from Bring In ’Da Noise, Bring In ’Da Funk. To mix it up a bit, Jacobowitz also invited Paradigm, a group of dancers who perform with grace even though they’re decades beyond their prime. (Paradigm’s Dudley Williams, still dancing at 66, was with Alvin Ailey for four decades and will be honored at the festival.) “I want the kids to see that dance can happen for a long time,” she says.