It might sound obvious, but sometimes the obvious is so much in front of you that you don't see it. Last night at the Petworth Dance Project, I realized that a neighborhood changes from just a place to live to a place where you want to live when the people around you work to make it a real community. It's where you feel engaged and connected with a sense of belonging.
It's when people volunteer their time to clean up streets and plant new flowers, when local businesses open their doors to local events, and when neighbors bring their passion and make their work available to all.
We see this right here in Petworth with the Celebrate Petworth Festival, with the Petworth Jazz Project, the Community Market, the three Social hours happening around the area -- and now the Petworth Dance Project.
Sara Herrera-Kopetchny has put together a new summertime event for people of all ages to enjoy modern dance, for free, here in Petworth. The second Saturday of each month, a dance company will come to Petworth Park (8th & Taylor St NW) and present a free dance for everyone to enjoy. There's a stage, music, blankets, professionally trained dancers and choreographers, and you. And it's because Sara wants to share her passion for dance with neighbors.
Last night was the first show, and it was wonderful. Petworth Park has a big open area, a playground and a spray park, and in the summer it's noisy with happy kid screams and the chatter of parents and neighbors. Last night it was all that and more. The sounds of the children playing as the dancers were on the stage made the event seem so much more immediate and real, something that was happening with us instead of in front of us at a theater. It made me really appreciate the dancing and the talent of the performers.
Looking around, I could see the audience was enthralled and focused on the performance. People sat watching, alone, in twos and in groups. This wasn't the social, party atmosphere of the Jazz Project, this felt special and deserving of your full attention.
I was struck by the little kids who watched the dancers and mimicked their twirls and leaps. One of them, Norah, caught my eye as she danced with the sun setting behind her. She kept trying to get her mom to get up and dance with her, but only a young child has the acknowledged innocence to spin around on the grass next to a stage of professionals and make it seem meaningful, not distracting. It was delightful to see.
The Petworth Dance Project was a success that night, and it's the type of event that makes Petworth feel like a place where you're excited to live, happy to see neighbors on warm summer evenings and let your kids run around.
The next Dance Project is Saturday, July 11th at 6pm and starts with kids' music, and then the dance begins in the spray park, moving to the grassy area for the second half. Should be really cool, and I look forward to it.
If you're interested in supporting the Petworth Dance Project: Check out their Indiegogo campaign where you can help fund the events.