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Not fade away: The Dance Flurry returns to Saratoga Springs.

PHOTO: Tim Rabb/Northern Photo

A Flurry of Activity

They might not admit it, but the howling winds earlier this week probably gave at least some of the organizers of the Dance Flurry some stressful flashbacks. Last year the beloved dance-and-more festival was all but canceled, shrunk down to a six-hour, two-venue event after wind storms left Saratoga Springs without power.

Those who came to the rented-generator-powered mini-Flurry made the best of it, but the organization was left with at least an $82,000 debt that threatened to soar up to $120,000 if people claimed ticket refunds. To say nothing of the money needed in the bank to start 2007’s festival—which will be held Feb. 16-18, again in locations around Saratoga Springs.

“After the Flurry’s over, usually there’s two or three months where you don’t have to worry about it,” said Peter Davis, co-director of the festival. “But what we had to do after Flurry [last year] was go into immediate fund-raising mode.”

Spontaneous benefit concerts and dances had started the very weekend of the disaster, and some on the organizing committee wanted to go on to organize more formal fund-raising events. But, Davis said, “My daughter-in-law looked me in the eye and said ‘You know, just ask people for money and they’re going to give it to you. You don’t have to do these labor-intensive events.’ ”

She was not underestimating. “Two weeks later I played at a contra dance in New York City and they came up with $3,000,” said Davis. Within three months, with little more than appeal letters, the Flurry had raised $100,000. A full 90 percent of ticket holders declined to request refunds, and many performers waived some or all of their fees. “We have an amazing community,” said Paul Rosenberg, the festival’s founder.

The Flurry has relied on providence before, noted Rosenberg. In 1993, a blizzard reduced attendance by about 60 percent from expectations, and they found themselves $8,000 to $10,000 in the hole. With two hours left to go, one announcement from the stage and a passing of the hat raised $7,000. The next year, a flood left them without a venue three weeks before the festival. They relocated from Guilderland to Saratoga Springs with only a week to spare, and managed to redirect nearly all the attendees (without the Internet) to the new location.

Given that history, “I was totally confident about making up the $90,000,” said Rosenberg, explaining that gatherings for traditional dance and music like this one take the place of “church or synagogue” for many of the people who come. In fact, Rosenberg was so optimistic that he was against starting to carry event insurance this year. (The organizing committee overruled him on that one.)

Still, the recovery was an amazing enough feat that as this year’s festival was approaching, Flurry organizers found themselves needing to do a little publicity locally to let people know that the event had indeed survived. “Some people thought it wasn’t happening at all,” said Davis. “Some of my neighbors said, ‘Oh, we thought you guys were finished.’ ”

Far from finished, the Dance Flurry will be celebrating its 20th anniversary this year with, as long-time performer Don Dworkin of DDE Music describes it, “a flurry of activities, flurry of dancers, flurry of people.”

Over its two decades the festival has grown well beyond its roots in traditional American social dance (namely contras and squares). There’s an active swing-dance contingent, plus social dance from all over the world—from Afro-Brazilian street samba to hiphop to nihon buyo (a traditional Japanese dance). At the dance museum there’s a chance to cross over into performative dance with classes in modern and ballet. There’s also a wide-range of nondance offerings, inspired, said Rosenberg, by the dancers who wanted a way to entice their nondancing significant others to make the trip: classes for complete dancing beginners, instrument technique workshops, pub sings, storytelling workshops, drum circles. And, of course, there’s the omnipresent jamming.

“People think of it as just a bunch of guys with pony tails and beards,” said Dworkin, but that’s far from the case. “You go from room to room and you practically go around the world.” Of course one could also still contra the whole weekend away in the City Center’s main hall. But most people will branch out a little.

“Part of the passion is that it gives people a chance to try other things that they would never ever go to [a whole event on],” explained Rosenberg. “It’s like a really good potluck.”

This year, as always, organizers are hoping to get a little more turnout from their Capital Region neighbors. The hotels have been sold out for months to people who come from all over the country, but the event is somewhat less high-profile in its own backyard.

The Dancy Flurry Festival wil be held Feb. 16-18 in Saratoga Springs. The full schedule can be found at www.dance flurry.org/festival. Ticket prices range from $30 to $85.

—Miriam Axel-Lute


Art Beat

The pornstar and the “dyke playboy”: (l-r) Sprinkle and Stephens.

THE REAL PUSSYCAT DOLLS: “What happens when former porn star, sexologist and performance artist Annie Sprinkle falls madly in love with experimental artist, professor and sexy dyke playboy Elizabeth Stephens?” Well, the answer is simple: magic and performance art. On Valentine’s Day (Wednesday, Feb. 14, duh) at 7 PM, Sprinkle and Stephens will bring their Love Art Laboratory project to the Sanctuary for Independent Media (3361 6th Ave., Troy)—thanks to the good folks at RPI’s iEAR Presents! This evening of multi-media presentations will, we are promised, challenge us to explore “sexual and familial love to bring about social change.” Sprinkle, who was the first porn star to earn a Ph.D., started out in porn in the golden ’70s. How she went from starring in old-school flicks like The Devil Inside Her to becoming a pro-sex feminist performance artist is fascinating; Google her name to find the details. (Hey, there’s only so much space here.) Her latest project, with her partner, Stephens, is the Love Art Laboratory, a seven-year project begun in 2004 to explore the various facets of love in art. The themes change each year; this year’s are “courage and power.” Admission is $10, $5 for students and low-income citizens. For more info, call 276-4829 or visit www.arts.rpi.edu.

THE PERFORMANCE ARTIST AND THE DJ: This year’s 4th annual Berkshire Conference, a forum for “exploring the social, cultural and economic ramifications of the dynamic and increasingly complex interaction between the worlds of business and culture,” will be held at the Clark Art Institute. First, the bad news: Most of the proceedings are not open to the public. The good news? A few seats are still available to the public for the opening address by author, actress and performance artist Anna Deveare Smith. Smith, who wrote and performed (among other works) the spellbinding, award-winning Twilight: Los Angeles 1992, will be introduced and interviewed by DJ Spooky, whose own audio-visual works are pretty interesting. Smith’s lecture is tomorrow night (Friday, Feb. 9) at the Clark (225 South St., Williamstown, Mass.); for reservations, call (413) 458-0524.

UNHAPPY CHANGE IN SCHEDULE: Capitol Chamber Artists regular cellist Helene Annas was injured in an automobile accident recently; we wish her well, and a very speedy recovery. CCA will still be presenting their concerts in Albany and Vermont this weekend, though, with the kind help of cellist Andre O’Neill. The program, Valentine’s Day in Music, will feature music by (among others) Fritz Kreisler, Robert Schumann and Max Steiner. The Saturday evening start time—7 PM at the First Congregational Church (405 Quail St., Albany)—is unchanged, but the Sunday concert at the Community Hall in Benson, Vt., has been moved to 3 PM. Admission is $16, $8 students. For more info, call 458-9231.

FEEL THE CASHMERE, BE ED WOOD: Recently, we heard the intriguing news that this year’s Ed Wood Film Festival will be migrating over to the Spectrum 8 Theatres in Albany. (Full disclosure: I served as a judge a couple of years ago when the festival was held at the Lionheart, and former Metroland salesdude Michael McGrath was a featured actor in an excellent short comedy about urinal etiquette shown in competition.) While the festival isn’t until Sept. 21-22, there’s something to get excited about now. In addition to the usual short-film competition, there is a “microsode” screenplay contest. Right this minute—or pretty damn soon—send your 5-minute long script to the EdWood folks (www.ewfilms.com). The judges—a secretive lot—will choose 16 winners, and the scripts will be cast and filmed in one day at one of the Spectrum 8 parking lots. Yes, a parking lot on Delaware Avenue will be transformed into a glamorous Hollywood-style back lot. Sweet. Go to the Web site for info; if you have any questions, e-mail info@ewfilm.com.

—Shawn Stone

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