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Downtown Dance Festival Brings Free Outdoor Performances to Lower Manhattan

By Julie Shapiro | August 10, 2012 12:34pm

LOWER MANHATTAN — The city's longest-running public dance festival is leaping back onto the stage this weekend.

The 31st annual Downtown Dance Festival — which brings a week of free, outdoor performances to the Financial District — will kick off with an exuberant series of international dances in Battery Park on Saturday and Sunday.

Highlights include Sri Warisan, a troupe from Singapore that performs traditional Malay dances and will take the stage in Battery Park on Aug. 11 and at One New York Plaza on Aug. 13.

"No one in the audience will have seen the kind of dance they're going to be performing," said Jonathan Hollander, artistic and executive director of the Battery Dance Company, which runs the festival. "It's very unique and very beautiful."

Another must-see performance this year is a celebration of Woody Guthrie's 100th birthday by Vanaver Caravan, a group from New Paltz, N.Y., that will dance to live music at One New York Plaza on Aug. 16.  

"It's a full live band — that's more and more rare," Hollander said.

The Battery Dance Company, which celebrated its 35th anniversary last year, started the free Downtown Dance Festival more than three decades ago as a way of giving back to the community. It is now the city's longest-running public dance performance.

"It's an addiction for us," Hollander said of bringing dance to those who can't afford tickets or would never think to buy them. "It's so hard to find the funding — that's never gotten any easier. But we can't let it go."

The Downtown Dance Festival will take place in Battery Park Aug. 11 and 12 from 1 to 4 p.m., at One New York Plaza Aug. 13 to 17 from noon to 2 p.m., and at Dance New Amsterdam, 280 Broadway, Aug. 18 at 6 p.m. For more details, visit the Battery Dance Company's website.